SAFER TRAVELS

The city of Palmdale as been awarded a $5.2 million state grant to fund construction for a project to make significant improvements to Avenue R between Sierra Highway and 25th Street East.

PALMDALE — The city of Palmdale has been awarded a $5.2 million transportation grant from the state to pay for construction in a project that will provide significant improvements to a stretch of Avenue R between Sierra Highway and 25th Street East.

The grant funds are part of Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program, a competitive process to award state and federal grant funds for transportation projects that encourage walking and biking in conjunction with vehicle traffic.

“I think it’s a huge win for the area,” said Michael Behen, strategic initiative manager for Palmdale’s Public Works Department. “I really think it’s going to be transformative.”

The project will expand the street to make that stretch of Avenue R a complete five-lane arterial, with two lanes in each direction and a middle left turn lane.

It also will fill in gaps in the sidewalks, add bike lanes and bus turnouts, and improve curb ramps to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The bike lanes will connect to the Sierra Highway bike path, officials said.

The project also includes modification of the traffic signal at the intersection of Avenue R and 11th Street East to accommodate the roadway improvements.

Once completed, the project will improve passage along Avenue R for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

It will comply with Complete Street standards, and provide safer routes to schools for children who must currently contend with a lack of sidewalks and little buffer from traffic.

Improved signage and other safety features in school zones are included in the project.

Avenue R in the area serves as a major access route to Desert Rose, Palm Tree and Tumbleweed elementary schools as well as Palmdale High School.

Construction could begin later this year or in early 2020, and will take about a year, Behen said.

The remainder of the project’s $6.5 million cost will be covered by Measure M transportation funds, Behen said.

“That’s tax dollars going to good use,” he said.

The city also received $2.5 million in state funds to acquire rights-of-way along the project route, and other state funds that were used for the project design, environmental report and engineering, he said.

The grant award was the result of a coordinated effort among city departments, with more than 20 letters of support from area political leaders, businesses, churches, school districts and residents.

The project received the most letters of support by far of any he’d seen in 28 years with the city, Behen said.

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.

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