PALMDALE — Drivers who frequently travel Pearblossom Highway may want to get their detours lined up now, as a major road rebuilding project is scheduled to start Sept. 16 and last for about a year.
The project will tear out and rebuild about three miles of the highway roughly between 25th and 55th streets east.
While the finished product will be a much smoother and improved road for drivers, the process will bring disruptions.
“The first couple weeks of this project are going to be very tough,” Public Works Project Manager Marc Zuber said Thursday during a community open house intended to inform residents about the project.
During that time, drivers will become aware of the road closure and regulars will begin to work out detours of their own.
The primary detour route, including directing drivers exiting the Antelope Valley Freeway, will be down Avenue S.
Additional detour routes are Avenue R and Palmdale Boulevard, which as State Route 138 is controlled by Caltrans.
City engineers, working with Caltrans, will be monitoring traffic flows throughout the project and work to accommodate the fluctuating traffic patterns as much as possible, such as through signal light coordination.
“We have an entire room just dedicated to monitoring the signals,” Palmdale Senior Civil Engineer Ruben Hovanesian said. “We’ve got a whole lot of partners on this.”
The project is divided into three segments moving west to east to pace the construction period so the entire stretch is not affected at the same time.
The first segment, primarily on the north side of the highway from Old Nadeau Road (the California Aqueduct) to approximately 35th Street East, is the only segment expected to involve the complete closure of the road, with business access only.
The closure will be only a portion of the segment and officials expect the closure to last about three to four months, although they are doing all they can to expedite it, Zuber said.
For the second and third segments, with one side under construction at a time, the remaining two open lanes will be split with one in each direction.
Members of the City Council, briefed on the project during Tuesday’s meeting, voiced concerns about informing drivers who use the route as a shortcut to Las Vegas and may not be familiar with local streets, as well as handling the traffic flows on the detour routes.
Message boards on State Route 138 and Highway 14, as well as Pearblossom Highway, will provide advanced warning to drivers and direct them toward detours, Public Works Director Chuck Heffernan said.
Councilwoman Laura Bettencourt said she was concerned with the truck traffic shifting to Avenue S, which is not a designated truck route, and which has been repaved in recent years.
“Those trucks coming through there are going to rip that up,” she said.
Officials will coordinate with law enforcement to work on enforcement and shifting trucks to Palmdale Boulevard.
Granted, the roundabout at 47th Street East may also cause problems with trucks, Bettencourt said.
“There aren’t a lot of good alternatives to Pearblossom Highway,” Heffernan said.
The heavily traveled road has been repeatedly damaged and this stretch has been patched time after time, but the repairs are no longer enough.
An average of 34,000 cars a day travel that stretch of highway, and about 10% of those are trucks, “which has definitely had an impact on that road,” Zuber said.
The existing road will be broken up and removed down 20 to 22 inches, with a new road bed and surface then installed.
The rebuilding project will replace the deteriorated road with a new, smooth driving surface. Additional improvements also are in the plans, including new signal equipment, intersection improvements, and new or upgraded curb ramps and crosswalks.
Additionally, changes will be made to traffic patterns to enhance safety and traffic flow at 25th Street East and Barrel Springs Road and 30th Street East, and a median barrier will be installed between 25th and 30th streets east to help prevent head-on traffic collisions.
The alignment of Pearblossom Highway will not change.
The project is the biggest street improvement project in Palmdale in nearly three decades, officials said.
The $13.5 million dollar construction costs are being funded by Los Angeles County, Measure M, Measure R, SB-1 and gas taxes.