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Highway 29 traffic in AmCan

Gridlock along Highway 29 in American Canyon could get worse if the city goes through with three large development projects in the coming years.

AMERICAN CANYON — This south county city found itself confronting massive plans for both residential and industrial growth in 2016, with impacts that could further snarl traffic on Highway 29.

Both the Watson Ranch multiuse project, slated for the east side of town, and two large corporate parks planned for the west side confronted the city with multiple “significant and unavoidable impacts” on traffic, air quality and other concerns.

Individual assessments of Watson Ranch, Napa Logistics Park and Napa Airport Corporate Center revealed a potential flood of new traffic coming in and out of these developments, much of which would find its way to Highway 29, if all three projects are built out as planned.

It remains to be seen how well the four lanes of Highway 29 will handle this new automobile load, since there has not been a comprehensive environmental impact report on these developments.

Watson Ranch

Some longtime planners and politicians in Napa County say Watson Ranch is as big as any residential development ever attempted in the valley. The project calls for 1,250 new homes, townhouses and apartments just east of Wal-Mart. Additionally, Watson Ranch would create American Canyon’s first town center, dubbed Napa Valley Ruins & Gardens, due to its proposed location at the old cement factory.

A traffic study of Watson Ranch released by the city in March estimated more than 16,000 vehicle trips would arise daily if the project is fully built by 2030. Its impact during peak commute times would be 1,181 trips in the morning and 1,488 trips in the afternoon, according to the study.

City Hall had hoped to publish the environmental report for Watson Ranch early in 2016. That effort experienced several delays due to changes and corrections associated with the project’s Specific Plan, which spells out the project’s details. The environmental report was finally released on July 1, revealing multiple “significant and unavoidable impacts with respect to: air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, noise, and transportation and traffic.”

Chapter 4 of the report covering transportation and traffic said the project would “contribute to unacceptable traffic operations” even with the “implementation of identified mitigation measures. Impacts would be significant and unavoidable.”

Specifically, the report identified significant traffic impacts along Highway 29 at the intersections with Highways 12 and 221 and Soscol Ferry Road, Highway 12 and Airport Boulevard, South Kelly Road, Napa Junction Road, Eucalyptus Drive, Meadows Drive and Fairgrounds Drive and Highway 37’s westbound ramps.

As for air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental report’s executive summary said, “Operational activities associated with the proposed Project would violate air quality standards or contribute substantially to an existing or projected air quality violation, even with implementation of the identified mitigation measure. Impacts would be significant and unavoidable.”

The publication of the environmental report on July 1 launched a 45-day public review to elicit comments on the project. City Hall received no shortage of comments, many of them dozens of pages in length, forcing officials to spend more time than expected to respond to the myriad concerns raised by state agencies, labor unions, environmentalists, local residents and businesses.

Officials also were forced to scuttle plans to have the American Canyon Planning Commission and City Council take up the environmental report in the fall. Those meetings now won’t take place until 2017.

Napa Airport Corporate Center

American Canyon actually released two environmental reports on July 1 — one for Watson Ranch, and another for a lesser known, but not insignificant commercial project known as Napa Airport Corporate Center.

Contrary to its name, the Napa Airport Corporate Center would be nowhere near Napa County Airport. Its location is slated for American Canyon’s northern edge, off Highway 29 and South Kelly Road.

Napa Airport Corporate Center calls for the construction of four to five warehouses for wine and other storage, creating more than 500,000 square feet of space.

In addition to the date of its environmental report release, Napa Airport Corporate Center shared something else with Watson Ranch: both projects possess multiple impacts on traffic and air pollution deemed “significant and unavoidable” by separate consultants who reviewed the plans.

The corporate center’s environmental report cited “significant and unavoidable” impacts on regional air quality management planning, greenhouse gas emissions, and traffic congestion.

Regarding traffic, the environmental report said the project could produce 562 morning peak‐hour trips and 536 afternoon peak‐hour trips. The report’s traffic analysis included this caveat: More than 60 percent of these vehicle trips would be generated by an optional gas station/fast food/car wash for Napa Airport Corporate Center.

Napa Logistics Park

Napa Airport Corporate Center’s 500,000 square feet of space would be dwarfed by its industrial park neighbor directly to its west: Napa Logistics Park.

If phases I and II of Napa Logistics Park are built, the project would establish nearly 3 million square feet of space for manufacturing and warehousing.

Phase I, consisting of a single, 646,000-square-foot building, was completed this year, and is awaiting businesses to lease it. Phase II would entail the addition of four more buildings covering 2.2 million square feet. These have yet to be built.

The traffic study for Napa Logistics Park concluded it would generate 1,310 vehicles during peak morning commute time and 1,243 vehicles during the afternoon peak.

The project’s developer, Orchard Partners, has promised the city that it will bring in businesses that agree to use a variety of work shifts for employees to reduce the number of vehicles coming and going from the business park at peak traffic times.

The use of a Travel Demand Management program is projected to “ensure that trip generation does not exceed 780 vehicles during the AM peak hour and 704 vehicles during the PM peak hour,” according to a city staff report prepared for the City Council.

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