“Fred” and “Wilma” are empty-nesters, and now that the golden eagles’ baby bird has flown the coop, work can begin on one of East County’s biggest local road improvements: the extension of Sand Creek Road from Brentwood to Antioch.
The new $8.7 million roadway is expected to shave at least 10 minutes off a trip from west Brentwood to the nearest hospital, Kaiser Permanente in Antioch, and relieve traffic on the heavily used Lone Tree Way to the north near where the new Brentwood Costco is to be located.
But work on the three-mile extension from Brentwood’s Old Sand Creek Road to Antioch’s Deer Valley Road, which was set to begin in late March, had to be delayed for months because of the nearby nest of golden eagles, which are protected by federal, state and regional laws and policies.
“They (the golden eagles) have slowed us down significantly, but it’s good to see love conquers all,” Brentwood Mayor Joel Bryant joked at a groundbreaking ceremony last week about the eagles named Fred and Wilma. “They raised their family, they moved on and we’re happy to move on with this project.”
Bryant is also a member of East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy, which works to protect listed and sensitive wildlife species, including golden eagles, while also allowing for streamlined permitting processes for covered development projects. Several other laws and policies protect golden eagles and guide development around eagle nests and habitat, including the federal Eagle Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Once the eaglet was ready to fly, however, authorities were able to restart the project, which extends from Sand Creek Road at State Route 4 to the west in Brentwood, across Sand Creek, to Heidorn Ranch and Deer Valley roads in Antioch.
Sand Creek Road ends near State Route 4, just west of it, in Brentwood, on June 2, 2023. The roadwork to extend it to Antioch could not begin this spring because a golden eagle’s nest was discovered near the border of the two cities. (Judith Prieve/Bay Area News Group)
“This is the culmination of many years of efforts from many people consistently looking out for the well-being of our community,” Bryant said. “This road is going to literally save the lives of the residents that are in need of a faster route to the hospital, Kaiser at Deer Valley, so this is very important.”
In addition to the roadway extension, the project includes a 130-foot-long precast bridge that will span over Sand Creek, bicycle lanes and sidewalks.
“It’s also going to be, I think, a lynchpin for economic development in this area, with the traffic flow, the growth that we’re seeing,” he said. “We want to be a place that we’re happy for our families to have been raised here and to hopefully raise their families with the same quality of life and level of services and resources that we have at least the same level today.”
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Sand Creek Road extension was recently bumped up the priority list by a unanimous vote of the East Contra Costa Regional Fee and Finance Authority, the agency charged with funding regional transportation improvement projects in eastern Contra Costa. The group, with representatives from throughout East County, also approved $4.1 million toward the project.
Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis, meanwhile, called the groundbreaking for the road extension “exciting times” thanking all the leaders past and present for making it happen.
“This is going to provide the infrastructure that people expect and need,” she said.