Hwy 1 auxiliary lanes project ramps up

Dear Street Smarts, Q: Several weeks ago, I wrote to you to ask the status of the Highway 1 construction project between Morrissey Boulevard and Soquel Avenue. I mentioned it seemed to be going slowly. Since then, I have gone by the site several times a day. I rarely see anyone working on anything there. Could you please tell us why the project is going so slowly and why there is so little work being done on it? Many thanks. Jerry Feldman via email A: You're not the only one to write in with concerns about the project, Jerry. Q: As I drive by the construction on Highway1 between Morrissey and Soquel, I am wondering what the timetable is looking like at this point? I have been surprised by how few workers are on the job and how seemingly little progress has been made these past few weeks despite the good weather. Can you shed some light on what is happening and when will the worst be over? Thanks, Larry Friedman, Santa Cruz A: Ed Alaimo and Eric Smith, both of Soquel, also emailed Street Smarts wondering about the pace of the project and the number of crew members on site. On Tuesday, I toured the work site and picked the brains of those overseeing the project on behalf of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. I learned:
  • On any typical day, there are between 9-20 people working, spread out on both sides of the highway along the one-mile project area.
  • Crews work Saturdays, some holidays such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and well into the evening as necessary to help further the project along.
  • There have been unexpected delays, including rain days in November and December, which requires time for the ground to dry out as soggy conditions are hazardous to the crew. Also, the soil beneath the roadway is not what was expected. Sandy areas require deeper digging to ensure a sturdy encasing for new structures, such as the new La Fonda overcrossing.
  • Safety concerns are behind the conservative workforce. In this confined space, with traffic on one side and a dirt hillside on the other, too much activity would be dangerous. Also, the project must be completed in certain stages.
  • April is the month you will get to see all that has been done. Crews are about to pave the road, move the concrete barriers and shift traffic lanes so the next stage can begin -- tearing down the support column in the center of the highway for the old La Fonda bridge to make way for a new one. The materials for the new soundwall are on site and waiting to be built. What's more, the traffic lanes will be widened from 11 feet to 12 feet.
So, the project is in the home stretch and is to be completed in late July or early August, a few months after the contractor's initial bid to wrap it up in April or May, RTC officials said.
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