‘What’s going on along the 101?’
By Solana Beach Council members Lesa Heebner and Mike Nichols, members of the Highway 101 Ad Hoc Committee
“What’s going on along the 101?” The Solana Beach City Council has heard this question frequently of late! The purpose of this column is to answer this and other questions about the Highway 101 renovation project and help both the public and the business community better understand what is being planned along our City’s “Main Street.”
PROJECT GOAL AND DESIGN
The current condition of the 101 does not encourage pedestrian activity, provide adequate parking, accommodate bicycles or properly manage stormwater drainage. The goal of this project is correct all of these existing deficiencies.
It’s been carefully designed to create an environment that will support our local businesses, encourage a more walk-able and bike-able community, and enhance our City’s quality of life. We anticipate it will also encourage the development of new outdoor dining and retail venues to help Solana Beach prosper economically and better serve its residents and visitors.
Upon completion, Highway 101 will have wider sidewalks lined with street trees, landscaping, benches, bike racks, new light poles and 11 uniquely designed gathering spaces along the corridor.
In addition, there will be 30 additional public parking spaces added by changing the existing parallel parking to angled (nose-in) parking, while maintaining two-lanes of traffic in the north- and south-bound directions. There will also be four new pedestrian crosswalks added to connect the west side of the street with the Coastal Rail Trail (east) side of the street. These crosswalks will occur at the Cliff Street bridge, at the end of the pedestrian bridge at the Transit Station across to Pizza Port, at Estrella Street, near T’s Café, and midway between Lomas Santa Fe and Dahlia Street at The Executive Plaza.
To accomplish all of these improvements, the existing medians will be narrowed. New medians will be constructed which will contain twice as many trees as before, plus additional landscaping.
The proposed improvements follow the Highway 101 Master Plan adopted by the City Council in 2005, which spans from Dahlia Street (Bank of America) to the south, to Cliff Street (Moreland Motorcycles) to the north. If you have not seen the current version of the plans at one of the City’s workshops or public hearings, please visit the City’s website at www.cityof SolanaBeach.org and click on “Highway 101 Westside Improvement Project,” or visit City Hall for additional information.
The City Council held numerous public hearings and public workshops over the last seven years on the development of these plans, with resulting newspaper and online articles. The current plans have been adjusted several times in response to comments received from the public, bicycle groups and local businesses. Additionally, the property owners along Highway 101 also had workshops and individual meetings with the design consultants and City staff so their particular concerns were addressed.
FINANCING & COST
In an era of municipal bankruptcies, service cuts and budget shortfalls, how can we afford this? The Transnet sales tax, approved by voters countywide in 2004, dedicates a third of its revenue to projects just like this, local road improvements. Solana Beach tagged on to a large “Build America Bond” offering by SANDAG, at the historically low rate of 3.86 percent, for $5.5 million of this $7 million project. The ongoing income from this half-cent sales tax to pay off our bonds was conservatively estimated.
SCHEDULE – WHY START NOW?
The answer to this question has to do with the tremendous scope of work and duration of the project, the sequence of construction, the avoidance of potential weather delays and related increased costs, and the need for critical storm drain repairs before the rains this year. It is important to note, that our City Manager and other construction professionals involved with this project made the educated decision to start when they did with the goal of minimizing inconvenience, addressing environmental factors, and reducing construction costs.
The first task of this extensive 15-month renovation is to remove, replace and relocate the water lines and storm drains along the new medians. Upon installation of the water lines and storm drains, the new medians will be constructed. At that point work will be transferred from the middle of the street to the west side of the street to complete the sidewalks, gathering places and parking improvements.
As we have all experienced, this first phase of work has caused disruption of traffic along Highway 101. But, the completion of the storm drain improvements in phase one of the project was critical to perform at this time — before the rainy season begins. Our existing storm drain infrastructure is in very bad shape as witnessed by the major flooding that occurred at Ocean Avenue a few years ago during a rainstorm. The storm drain work takes three to four months to complete, so it had to start during the summer to make the looming deadline for rains anticipated later this year. We anticipate it will be done by mid October or before.
If we would have waited until mid-September (after the horse races) to begin, we would not have completed the storm water work in time for the rainy season and likely would have incurred additional costs of construction due to delays from weather, as well as risked flooding and wastewater flows into our ocean. If we waited until after the rainy season and started work in the Spring of 2013, we would also incur considerable costs in extra interest totaling approximately $157,000, and construction would have spanned into the 2013 fair and horse racing seasons.
Needless to say, no matter when it started, this project would span every month of the year, potentially impacting either one or two summers, holiday seasons, rainy seasons, spring breaks, the Del Mar Horse Races or the Fair.
This project is a major accomplishment that our City has been working on and waiting for a very long time! In fact, our city has pursued this project for over 20 years, and now it is finally a reality due to a lot of hard work by a lot of people. We understand that the current construction is a major disruption, but we hope that you will see that the long term benefit of this much-anticipated project to our community’s economic sustainability and quality of life will far outweigh the short term inconvenience we are currently experiencing.
We also ask that now, more than ever, our residents and visitors support our local businesses by continuing to visit and shop along Highway 101 as you monitor the progress of this great investment being made in our community!