Sat11012014

News

First Street finish pushed back again: Project engineer hopes for January completion

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Pedestrians walk by an under-construction portion of First Street.

Northbound sidewalk construction along First Street in downtown Los Altos will likely continue through mid-January.

City project engineer Terry Greiner said that while the completion of paving allowed the street to reopen to southbound traffic earlier this month, the street’s northbound side remains a sticking point. He said the street’s northbound lane would probably remain closed until early 2012 so that construction workers have a safety zone to complete sidewalk construction between Main and State streets.

Sidewalk construction, according to Greiner, includes the installation of wall planters and benches, as well as the addition of new sidewalk slabs between First and Main streets, among other enhancements.

“I’d hate to throw dates out there because of the rainy season, but my hope is (for the northbound lane to open) by mid-January,” Greiner told the Town Crier.

Greiner said the northbound sidewalk concrete would be removed between the storefronts and the road and replaced with new graded concrete slabs to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Most of the storefront entryways, he noted, are not up to ADA regulations, which require a 2 percent grade or less.

“It’s an old (sidewalk), so the new ADA criteria weren’t even in effect back then,” said Greiner, who added that workers would begin installing traffic signals at the intersection of Main and First streets in December.

The project, originally slated for completion in early November, has been delayed by numerous factors, such as inclement weather, the re-engineering of a water line cap during road construction and the addition of sidewalk elements funded by Passerelle Investment Co., according to Greiner.

The prospect of continued construction along First Street has at least one downtown merchant disappointed.

In an email to the Town Crier, Khatchig Jingirian, president of Smythe & Cross Fine Jewelry on Main Street, said the construction has had a detrimental effect on several surrounding businesses. Coupled with the intersection renovations on First, Main and State streets earlier in the spring, Jingirian said the city’s current project along First Street has made conducting business in the area challenging.

Construction delays have been particularly painful, he added, because many merchants earn the bulk of their revenue during the holiday season.

“I can say that virtually every business has been affected negatively by the construction, despite our efforts to add additional promotional activities and events,” Jingirian said. “The merchants are angry and frustrated, not only because of the effects of the project, but more so because they have no ability to do anything about it.”

Jingirian said that he and several other downtown business owners warned the Los Altos City Council earlier this year about the project’s potential impact on downtown business.

“When a group of merchants, myself included, spoke to the city council back in the spring, we voiced our concerns regarding the timetable,” he said. “We warned them of the effects (and) that starting another construction project of this magnitude would have serious consequences.”

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