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Construction begins on Los Altos Foothill Expressway widening project

 Foothill Expressway construction
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Crews begin readying Foothill Expressway last week for an expansion project that includes adding a lane in both directions.

Work is at last underway on the Foothill Expressway expansion project in Los Altos. 

Crews with contractor Redgwick Construction began work last week. The Santa Clara County-led project includes adding a lane in each direction between El Monte Avenue and San Antonio Road, and adding an additional through lane on El Monte across Foothill.

The $6.6 million project is funded mostly through the Valley Transportation Authority’s Measure B sales tax, passed in 2016. The city of Los Altos contributed more than $500,000 in design work for the project.

Phase 1 of the project, scheduled to run through July 1, includes:
• Installing construction area signs and public information message boards.
• Installing storm-water runoff preventive measures.
• Digging potholes for underground utilities (electric, gas, water, communication, etc.).
• Removing existing lane striping and installing temporary lane striping to shift both southbound Foothill Expressway lanes between San Antonio and El Monte toward the center median.
• Removing existing roadway asphalt; removing existing concrete curbs and gutter; grading; and installing new sidewalks and signal pole foundations.

Foothill’s free-running right-turn lane onto El Monte will be closed as part of new lane configuration. Right turns will still be allowed, but motorists must adhere to traffic signals.

The northbound expressway free-running right-turn lane onto El Monte also will be closed as part of the new lane configuration design. Right turns will still be allowed, but motorists must obey the signals.

Most of Phase 1 construction work will be performed in a coned-off construction zone, but periodic temporary lane closures may still be required.

Construction, equipment staging and lane closures are scheduled 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, excluding city holidays and prescheduled special events such as the Rotary Club of Los Altos’ Fine Art in the Park and the Arts & Wine Festival.

County officials said construction hours may extend from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays during the ongoing shelter-in-place response to the COVID-19 health emergency. No work is permitted on Sundays.

The project addresses a section along Foothill prone to rush-hour traffic gridlock. Funding caused project delays when Measure B’s validity was challenged in court for nearly two years.

Despite most construction projects – including the new Los Altos Community Center – being put on hold under the current coronavirus-related order, county transportation officials said the expressway project is a go because it falls under operations and maintenance of “essential infrastructure.”

“It seems pretty clear to us that our project is allowed,” said Barry Ng, deputy director of infrastructure development for the county’s Roads and Airports Department. “Moreover, it will result in much safer operation of the intersection of El Monte and Foothill, which we believe is necessary under any circumstance. We certainly coordinated with our contractor to ensure that they felt they could comply with safe social-distancing protocols while working, and had the resources to complete the project. And lastly, although it was not a primary consideration, due to low traffic volumes out there right now, it is a good opportunity to get this work started.”

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