Residents, merchants and shoppers and people commuting via College Avenue are due for big changes next month as the street’s repaving project enters an expected three-month construction period.
The long-awaited and dreaded repaving of the 1.1 miles from Dwight Way to the Oakland border will take place in segments of two to four blocks at a time. One side of the street always will remain open for southbound traffic.
Low-impact work will be completed first, within a month or less. That includes selected removal and replacement of sidewalks, curbs and gutters, wheelchair ramps and bus pads. Traffic and parking will be maintained at this time.
For the high-impact excavation work, no parking will be allowed on either side of College Avenue near the construction zone. Northbound traffic will detour.
Phase One, a two-week period, is scheduled for the east side of College from Dwight Way to Russell Avenue, excluding the Dwight Way intersection. There are eight phases planned, with paving of the entire mile to take place in four days.
Glen Carloss, project engineer for the city, said the AC Transit No. 51 bus line on College Avenue will be reconfigured. A test run for a detour is scheduled for this week.
The result will be the replacement of the pock-marked asphalt on the heavily traveled thoroughfare that is lined with residences and the upscale Elmwood shops and restaurants.
The $2.14 million rehabilitation project will be funded entirely by the Federal Highway Administration. Construction bids are to be submitted to the city May 9 and the work is anticipated to begin at the end of May.
Carloss said crews will excavate 12 inches to the existing subgrade with grinders, and he admitted the work will be noisy. But he believes the new pavement will be worth the limited disruption.
He said the current deteriorated paving dates to 1947 when it was reconstructed, and that was overlaid in the 1960s. The other projects on the street are more recent.
College Avenue was “trenched” by the East Bay Municipal Utility District in 1998, he said, when the utility upgraded its system to install a 16-inch water main. In 1994 street lighting was improved there, also by digging up the street to install underground wires.
“A lot of merchants think the project could have been coordinated between East Bay and the city,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes the west side of College Avenue.
One Elmwood store owner, Virginia Carter, a pharmacist at the Elmwood Pharmacy at the corner of Russell Street and College, agreed. “It just seems that it should all be coordinated to do it at the same time.”
The city applied for the federal grant to repave College Avenue in November, 1998, after the utility dug trenches there for its 16-inch pipe.
The permanent traffic barrier on Russell Street near the parking lot behind College Avenue stores will modified during the construction period to permit vehicles, especially in the event of emergency, to access College from Benvenue Avenue.
John Huffman, owner of Videots, a video store at 2988 College Ave., and president of the Elmwood Merchants Association, said the merchants have been meeting almost monthly with the city since October.
He said neighbors have attended meetings as well and the communication lines are open. “There is nothing we can do but mitigate.”
Stepping up to the plate, the city is providing a grant of $10,000 for pamphlets and advertisements to let customers know that the Elmwood is still in business during construction.
Huffman said many of the 85 businesses that comprise the Elmwood shopping district lost about 20 to 30 percent of their business during the EBMUD construction. One of them closed: Burnaford’s, a produce store.
Claudia Moudry, owner of Your Basic Bird, a combination aviary and pet store, said the biggest concern of merchants is that “the Elmwood doesn’t become an area that is not available because of construction.”
She was pleased that the city plans to repave the Elmwood section between Russell and Webster at the end of the project and swiftly.
The streets that are peripheral to College Avenue should be kept open, she said, suggesting that fines for traffic violations be doubled and 15-mile speed zones be applied.
Strict enforcement of traffic control signage, speed limits and weight limitations on streets is on the police department agenda. People are encouraged to walk, carpool or bike in the area.
After the repaving is completed, the city’s five-year moratorium prevents any work on newly paved streets except for life safety, emergency or property damage, said Virginia Vafa from the Public Works Department.
The project is scheduled to coincide with the end of the school year, when fewer commuters will be taking College Avenue to and from the Cal campus. The city estimates southbound traffic during construction to be 10,000 vehicles daily and the estimated 7,000 vehicles northbound will detour to three alternative routes. They include heavy use of Telegraph and Claremont avenues.
A left turn signal at the intersection of Ashby and Claremont is to be installed for easing northbound traffic on Claremont making left turns to westbound Ashby Avenue.
Reh-Lin Chen, acting traffic engineer, said members of the Transportation Commission want a traffic calming solution, possibly a circle, for the busy three-way intersection of Claremont Boulevard, Garber Street and Belrose Avenue.
During construction, Chen said his department recommends pedestrian safety improvements at that intersection and two other intersections of Claremont, at Russell Street and Avalon Avenue. They include striping and pedestrian warning signs.