Thursday, March 16, 2006

City OKs Extra $2.9M to Widen Wilson Avenue

City OKs Extra $2.9M to Widen Wilson Avenue
By SARAH ROHRS, Times-Herald staff writer

As Wilson Avenue gets wider, so does its costs.

The Vallejo City Council on Tuesday approved a $2.9 million increase for the project's second phase.

Widening Wilson Avenue between Hichborn Street and Lighthouse Drive along the Vallejo waterfront is now expected to cost $16.5 million.

Money for the project comes from a combination of state and federal grants, traffic impact fees and bonds which will be paid back through general fund proceeds.

Wilson Avenue links Highway 37 and the downtown Vallejo area. In recent years, several buildings along the narrow street have been razed in preparation for the widening.

Calling for a narrower Wilson Avenue project, Stephanie Gomes was the only councilmember voting against the budget increase.

She urged her six colleagues to abandon the 61 foot-wide street in favor of a 48 foot-wide street and said she would continue raising the issue.

"I'm going to keep pushing it," Gomes said. "It's a neighborhood street, not a thoroughfare."

Reducing the width 20 percent for a narrower street will mean a 20 percent reduction in the budget, saving taxpayers about $1 million, Gomes said.

The $2.9 million budget adjustment is an increase to "an already bloated project," she said.

Other councilmembers had few comments on the Wilson Avenue widening project, which has been on city street improvement lists for years.

Some did, however, question Gomes' 20 percent cost-savings estimate and said they weren't sure how she came up with it.

Interim City Manager John Thompson suggested the council revisit the budget after the construction bids come in.

Bids on the widening project will be opened this week, said City Engineer Gary Leach.

The city rejected the last round of bids in August due to insufficient funding. The project was redesigned and put out to bid again.

Any prospective bids will be analyzed over the next few weeks and then return to the council for possible action.

Under the project, Wilson Avenue will continue to have two lanes but will have a landscaped median down the middle. Bicycle lanes also will be provided.

However, Gomes said even with the redesign the city has enough room to accommodate four lanes.

She said the city's ultimate plans are to widen Wilson Avenue to four lanes.

Leach said the project has been stripped down from its original four-lane configuration.

"We've narrowed it down as much as possible. It's been down-scoped a lot. I don't think people realize that," Leach added.

- E-mail Sarah Rohrs at or call 553-6832.

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