Critics of Highway 132 Bypass Raise Concerns over Property, Toxic Dirt

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A recent meeting to discuss plans for a Highway 132 bypass of Maze Boulevard brought out concerned homeowners who expressed concerns from having their property bought by the state, to toxic dirt that will be used to build part of the project.

The three mile bypass stretches from South Dakota Avenue to Highway 99 along a path that parallels Kansas Avenue. Maze Boulevard is on Highway 132 and sees bumper to bumper traffic near schools, churches and homes.

Local planning agencies believe a four lane expressway around the stretch of two lane road would serve to ease traffic and pave the way for growth in the area.

But Julie Brughelli who lives near the proposed route says a widening of the existing road is a better way to go. She says that 160,000 cubic yards of dirt in three piles near where the by-pass will connect with Highway 99 is too dangerous to move around. It contains barium, strontium and lead.

Caltrans examined four options and determined it was safet and cheaper to use the dirt for fill and surround it with concrete. That raises a red flag for many residents who live a stone throw from the piles.

"Caltrans knows it's toxic. Those homes are way too close to mess with that soil again," said Brughelli.

Caltrans says widening the existing portion of highway would be too expensive because homes and businesses would have to be purchased. The bypass proposal would be built on land already owned by the state or agricultural land.

"There is a cost factor, a safety factor, there is what’s safe for the general public," Chantel Miller, spokesperson for the District 10 Caltrans office, said Tuesday.

Miller says a final environmental document will be ready for review in the spring of 2015 when the public will be allowed to register their concerns. But Brughelli, who has organized homeowner awareness efforts, says previous meetings weren't announced.

Miller says the Department of Toxic Substances Control may have the final say on how the toxic mounds are handled and that the final plan may be adjusted to take care of issues raised by that regulatory body.

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