Street projects

IMPROVEMENT NEEDED — Motorists travel east along Palmdale Boulevard near Sixth Street East in Palmdale, where a project to widen the boulevard between Fifth and 10th streets east and Sierra Highway from Avenue R to just south of Avenue Q has led to City Council discussion on taking control of Palmdale Boulevard from Caltrans.

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.

To share your opinion on this article or any other article, write a letter to the editor and email it to editor@avpress.com or mail it to Letters to Editor, PO Box 4050, Palmdale CA 93590-4050.

agatlin@avpress.com

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