Vasco Road (California)
|Maintained by Contra Costa County, Alameda County|
|Length:||17.7 mi (28.5 km)|
|Existed:||1958 – present|
|north end:||SR 4 (John Marsh Heritage Highway) – Brentwood|
|south end:||I‑580 – Livermore|
Vasco Road is an unnumbered highway that connects Livermore, California and Brentwood, California. Although it is not part of the California State Highway system, it is the principal north-south commuter route serving eastern Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. The two counties are each responsible for maintaining the portion of the road within their boundaries. The traffic count in 2008 was estimated at more than 25,000 vehicles per day. Weekend traffic is also heavy in spring and summer, when residents from other parts of California flock to the recreation areas along the Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta.
Originally, Vasco Road was a two-lane, very narrow highway that began at U. S. Highway 50 (now Interstate 580) and wound over the Diablo Range and through the Kellogg Creek valley. In 1957, Alameda County linked three other streets inside Livermore to extend Vasco to Tesla Road. A ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the new Vasco Road on August 1, 1958.
Booming population growth caused a sharp increase in housing prices throughout the Bay Area. People working in Silicon Valley and the Tri-Valley areas began moving into the relatively undeveloped East County area of Contra Costa County. By the early 1990s, traffic congestion on Vasco Road had become severe and accidents were frequent.
In 1996, concurrently with the construction of Los Vaqueros Reservoir, a 12.8-mile segment of Vasco was relocated and widened to accommodate increased traffic and heavy trucks. The old roadway was submerged by the reservoir. When the road re-opened, it carried about 16,000 vehicles per day. In 2009, Vasco Road was extended northwestward from Walnut Street to Marsh Creek Road, where it joined the third segment of John Marsh Heritage Highway (a.k.a. California State Route 4 Bypass, now part of California State Route 4). In 2010, a section of the road in Alameda County was relocated and widened, eliminating a steep narrow section with several switchbacks.
Starting from Brentwood and proceeding southward to Livermore:
- Vasco Road's northern end continues onto SR 4 towards Antioch.
- Marsh Creek Road, SR 4 continues east on this road towards Stockton; it runs westward along Marsh Creek to Clayton, California.
- Walnut Street provides access to downtown Brentwood.
- Camino Diablo, a major intersection between the two cities, provides access eastbound to Byron, California and continues west to intersect Marsh Creek Road.
- Dalton Street is the northern limit of Livermore.
Inside Livermore, Vasco Road is a city thoroughfare with many intersecting streets that are not detailed here. It is a major connection to I-580. It also provides access to the Vasco Road ACE station, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Livermore campus of Sandia National Laboratory. The southern end of Vasco Road is at Tesla Road in Livermore.
- Altamont wind farms (not open to the public)
- Brushy Peak Regional Preserve, part of both the East Bay Regional Park District and the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District (LARPD).
- John Marsh House. Currently under restoration and not open to the public.
- Los Vaqueros Reservoir, with vehicular access to both northern and southern ends.
- Vasco Caves, part of East Bay Regional Park District. Wildlife and animal refuge part of the park is open for the public. Co-located Native American archeological site with wall paintings is not accessible to the public.
As originally constructed, Vasco Road was unprepared to meet the demands of high-volume traffic. Blind curves, narrow lanes, steep hills and inadequate shoulders all contributed to the increasing number of accidents. Some of these issues remained even after the relocation and reconstruction of much of the road. Many of these accidents were fatal, head-on collisions. A 2004 engineering study reported that there had been 254 collisions during the period June 1996 through August 2003.
The engineering firm that performed the safety report considered the feasibility of installing a concrete barrier down the center median. This proposal was rejected because of the high cost, as well as objections by some county agencies about lack of adequate access to emergencies. As an alternative, the engineers recommended that Contra Costa County install "rumble strips" from Walnut Boulevard to the Alameda county line. These are roughened strips of asphalt placed down the center line and the sides of each lane, intended to alert drivers when they stray off the road or into the oncoming traffic lane. This alternative was implemented by the county, along with adding "Do Not Pass" and "Passing Lane Ahead" signs at appropriate places.
In August 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 3 into law, establishing a "double fine" section on Vasco Road from Walnut Boulevard in Brentwood to Interstate 580 in Livermore. The law doubled the fines for "unlawful passing and overtaking, excessive speed, reckless driving, drunken driving and other serious moving violations" until Jan. 1, 2010. Road signs declaring the double fine zone were still up as of August 2010.
Contra Costa County began a project in 2010 to install a median barrier along a one-mile stretch of the road. This also required widening the roadway and a bridge, building retaining walls, and extending a passing lane.
- Pleasanton Weekly, September 12, 2008
- Livermore Heritage Guild Newsletter September/October 1988. "70 Birthday Candles for Altamont Pass Highway, 50 for Vasco Road."
- Hallisy, Erin. "Safer Road to Open in East Bay / Brentwood-Livermore route to change because of reservoir." April 15, 1996. 
- "The Dilemma of Vasco Road," Traffic Safety Center on-line newsletter, volume 2, number 2, Spring-Summer 2004.
- "State Route 4 Bypass Authority Project Information Web site
- East Bay Regional Parks - Brushy Peak Site
- LARPD - Brushy Peak Site
- East Bay Regional Parks - Vasco Caves Site
- "Contra Costa County Vasco Road Safety Recommendations Summary Report" Updated April 14, 2004."
- Lucas, Greg. San Francisco Chronicle. August 29, 2006
- Shields, Brian. "Contra Costa County Breaks Ground on Vasco Road Repairs." Kron4.com. May 24, 2010.