Solana Beach may use contingency funds to pay for unexpected Highway 101 costs

By Joe Tash

Solana Beach officials are considering the use of contingency funds set aside for unanticipated costs on the Highway 101 renovation project to pay for additional work along the 101 corridor.

The City Council was given a report on the progress of the $7 million renovation project at its meeting on Wednesday, April 10.

City staff has recommended two potential additions to the project, based on the availability of contingency funds: upgrades to the intersection of Plaza Street and Acacia Avenue to include new curb ramps, striped crosswalks and new sidewalks; and building a sidewalk on the west side of Highway 101 from just north of Ocean Street to the northern city limits, near Cardiff State Beach.

Both projects would improve walkability along the Highway 101 corridor, said the staff report.

According to the report, each project would cost about $138,000, and the money would come from contingency funds set aside for the larger Highway 101 renovation project. The report said the original contingency fund was $651,000, and of that amount, some $450,000, has already been spent.

Among the unexpected costs so far was the discovery of steel and rebar in old layers of concrete that had to be excavated for the renovation project, said City Manager David Ott.

The council on Wednesday also agreed to $34,000 in increases for consulting fees, leaving about $167,000 in the contingency fund, not enough to do both projects.

Council members questioned whether costs for the two projects could be reduced, and some additional funding located, so that both projects could be completed.

Ott said that is a possibility, and that he also wants to wait for at least two more months — to make sure no additional unexpected construction costs come up — before releasing the contingency funds to pay for new work.

Councilman Tom Campbell said he likes both projects, but would not support using money from the city’s general fund to pay for them.

Following its discussion, the council agreed to postpone a decision on which of the two projects to pursue until more information is available. The issue will come back to the council for consideration in late May or early June, Ott said.

The Highway 101 project stretches from Cliff Street in the north to Dahlia Drive in the south, and includes new storm drains, new sidewalks, landscaping, bike lanes, street furniture, decorative lighting and 11 gathering spaces with public art. The purpose is to make the corridor more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, thus luring more visitors to the area.

Ott said modifications to the project, such as a decision to do all of the median landscaping at once instead of in stages, helped put the work ahead of schedule by about two months.

The goal is to have all traffic lanes open, and most of the sidewalks installed, by the time the San Diego County Fair opens on June 8, said Ott, which kicks off the busiest part of the tourist season along the coastal corridor.

Work will still continue this summer on art, decorative tile, landscaping, bench seating and concrete in some areas, Ott said.

“We want to get all that traffic moving again,” he said.