LAKEPORT, Calif. – The Lakeport City Council on Tuesday night canceled a project aimed at improving safety conditions on Lakeshore Boulevard and directed staff to come back with alternate, less-expensive options.
The vote to follow the staff recommendation to cancel the Lakeshore Boulevard Highway Safety Improvement Project was 4-0, with Mayor Kenny Parlet absent.
A report to the council from City Manager Margaret Silveira and Mark Akaba, the temporary city engineer, explained that the project was meant to address the high number of crashes along the Lakeshore Boulevard corridor, between Ashe and Lange streets and located near the Lakeport Unified School District campus complex.
The city applied to Caltrans for funding through the Highway Safety Improvement Program program in 2010, receiving $132,000 in February 2011, according to staff. The project's total cost was estimated to be $147,125, with the city to provide a funding match of $14,725.
Akaba explained to the council Tuesday evening that the project proposal called for installing new colored asphalt in the bike lanes with new edge-lines to visually narrow the roadway, and the installation of a new mini traffic circle at the intersection of Jones Street and Lakeshore Boulevard.
The project was to have been completed and closed out by last Dec. 29. However, Akaba said that city staff determined that the prerequisites for completing the project would not be possible for the estimated cost and the project didn't move forward.
After City Engineer Scott Harter left this summer, Silveira asked the county of Lake's engineering staff to reevaluate the project and make recommendations, according to Akaba.
County engineering staff concluded that completing the project would require an additional city match of $43,175, for a total match of $57,900.
“At this point the recommendation was to come up with more economical measures,” Akaba said.
Akaba said staff recommended canceling the project and instead using local funds to pursue more economical traffic calming measures.
Councilman Marc Spillman asked if the city would have to return funds to the state.
Silveira confirmed that they would, but only a “very minimal” amount.
Lake County Assistant Public Works Director Lars Ewing told the council that the amount that would need to be return to the state is “in the three-digit range,” estimating the total was around $600.
Ewing said the project application had called for two specific items – colored asphalt for bike lanes and the traffic circle.
When Ewing and his staff – as well as Phil Dow of Dow and Associates – looked at the project's feasibility, “It raised more questions than it did answers,” he said.
Canceling the project would reduce the local share, said Ewing. He said it made sense to cancel it now and pursue “more remedial, basic measures from a traffic engineering perspective.”
Such less expensive options could include signage and striping, but Ewing added that they didn't yet have specific recommendations for the council.
The project had called for a roundabout to replace a two-way intersection at Jones Street, but Ewing said that intersection, in actuality, isn't a two-way intersection, so the traffic circle idea didn't really apply and shouldn't have been included.
In coming up with alternatives, “The county will be happy to help out,” said Ewing, adding that Dow also is willing to assist.
While the grant will have to be returned to Caltrans, Silveira said the city still has the more than $14,000 set aside for the local match that can be used for potential projects.
Ewing pointed out that striping is an inexpensive alternative, compared with full construction, and right-of-way improvements and land acquisition.
Dow said Ewing had asked him to look at the project, “and I did and I came to the exact same conclusion that he did, that it didn't quite fit.”
He suggested the council cancel the project, return the money and reassess. He encouraged them to be up front with the state, which he said will put them in a better position to receive funding in the future.
Dow pointed out that the original December 2010 project application to Caltrans had said the city was going to put radar feedback signs in the project area. “I don't know whatever happened to that plan. it didn't materialize obviously.”
Dow, who also does the city's five year speed zone studies, said the speeds in the Lakeshore Boulevard area range from 37 to 39 miles per hour. While it's not bad, it's not where the city wants to be, with speed contributing to the issues seen in that area, where the speed limit is reported to be 30 miles per hour.
There are a variety of options that the city can consider, said Dow. He said the visual corridor needs to be limited, and there are several ways to do that.
Engstrom said the project has been discussed since he and Mattina came on the council in 2010, and he had been excited about prospect of the city paving the bike lanes.
However, while the street in that area was paved, the bike lanes were not, and they're a mess, said Engstrom.
“I sure hope the council looks at a way of paving those bike lanes out there,” said Engstrom, who is leaving the council at year's end, when his term expires.
Suzanne Lyons, a former council member who lives on Lakeshore Boulevard, recounted numerous vehicle wrecks that have happened there – as well as instances of destroyed mailboxes and fences, and people who drove into her front yard – which she attributed to drivers who aren't licensed, and who are using drugs and alcohol.
In one instance, a 25 mile per hour speed zone sign in front of her house was hit by a speeding car, and when the sign was replaced the posted limit was 30 miles per hour.
She said it's not safe to walk or ride bikes in the area. “This is where the school is. This is serious stuff.”
Lyons called it “a really dangerous stretch of road,” and said she was mad that the city had the project funding and didn't use it.
Silveira told the council that one of the considerations was that the project can't be altered. Unless the city carries out the specific project, it can't use the funds.
She agreed that something needed to be done, and asked that the council direct staff to come back with traffic calming options.
“Sounds good,” said Engstrom.
“It's obvious that we have to do something there,” said Mayor Pro Tem Martin Scheel.
Spillman said he wanted the funds the city set aside for the match to be used for a project on Lakeshore Boulevard.
City Attorney David Ruderman said the funds are earmarked for some kind of traffic project, and the council would have to approve reallocating them.
Silveira said it was possible that, if the council wished to pursue the project as it was originally envisioned, the city could try to get an extension on the project completion date. However, after speaking with Ewing and Dow, it didn't appear that the project was appropriate for the intersection and area where it was proposed.
Engstrom thanked Lyons for sharing her experiences. “We're just as mad as you are that this didn't get done,” he said.
Mattina moved to cancel the project and direct staff to bring back less expensive traffic calming measures, which the council passed 4-0.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the council unanimously approved a change order not to exceed $154,000 for the US Department of Agriculture-funded project to repair and upgrade a 1.5 million gallon water tank; appointed Jane Alameda to the city's Business and Housing Loan Committee; and confirmed a prior city council resolution regarding a high density residential designation for a three-acre portion of a property at 1255 Martin St.
Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.