PALMDALE — A decision of the City Council to expand the role of a city consultant under contract for a road project in Palmdale led into a discussion regarding the potential for the city to take control of Palmdale Boulevard, which as part of State Route 138 is under Caltrans’ jurisdiction.
The discussion during the Feb. 5 City Council meeting was in light of an agenda item seeking to amend the city’s contract with Paragon Partners for consultant services in obtaining rights of way for a project widening Palmdale Boulevard between Fifth and 10th streets east and Sierra Highway between Avenue R and just south of Avenue Q.
The contract amendment passed on a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Richard Loa abstaining because he has a conflict of interest in that he owns property in the project area.
“This is a very important project for Palmdale,” Project Manager Michael Behen said, one that uses funds from the Measure R transportation sales tax.
The project will improve the railroad crossing to be safer and provide greater capacity in this area of roadway. Bike lanes will be added to connect to the Avenue R improvement project and extend the right turn lane onto Avenue R on southbound Sierra Highway.
The contract amendments are required because the project’s scope has increased to include additional hazard materials testing, 32 new parcels for right of way acquisition, new American with Disabilities Act standards to analyze and the area around the Union Pacific railyard at Avenue R and Sierra Highway required additional analysis, Behen said.
“We are spending a lot of staff time and money doing these improvements” which are essential for public safety, Councilman Juan Carrillo said, and requested a workshop to examine the possibility of taking control of Palmdale Boulevard.
“If we were able to take control of Palmdale Boulevard, we would be able not only to facilitate the Christmas Parade and other events which have to go through an extensive Caltrans process,” he said. “The other benefit that I see is that there is still a lot of vacant land along Palmdale Boulevard” that could be developed.
“Think of the projects we could bring to Palmdale Boulevard in a faster fashion without having a developer go through a Caltrans project,” he said.
Mayor Steve Hofbauer noted the project under discussion is administered already by the city, not Caltrans.
“This is one of the things we’re doing right now,” he said. “At some point in time I would like nothing better than to get Caltrans off there.”
However, given projects that are in planning now, Hofbauer said he thought a workshop on the matter would be premature.
“I don’t want to get Caltrans to think that we’re not going to hold their feet to the fire to get this work done,” he said.
“I think we all agree that we’d like to have some pride of ownership on Palmdale Boulevard,” Mayor Pro Tem Austin Bishop said. “A big part of this is having Caltrans pick up what they started so it doesn’t leave us with a liability.”
In lieu of a workshop, Carrillo requested a memo from city staff outlining the current status and going over the pros and cons of the city taking over control of the road.
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