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Freedom Boulevard Paving Nears End, City Promises

Business are worried about declining revenues; residents raise issue with intersection redesign.

Freedom Boulevard construction should be done by mid-March, city staff announced at the Watsonville City Council meeting on Tuesday evening.

The completion date can't come soon enough for some business owners in the Freedom Boulevard corridor. A handful of them came before city council to plead for help because the three-year project to rebuild the road is having an impact on their bottom lines to the point where some say they are a month away from closing their doors.

“Since construction started my business is going under due to the construction work," Juan Carlos, who owns a jewelry store on the street. "I don’t think anyone here really cares about what we feel.”

The is struggling and the owner of a nearby salon, Carmen Lopez, told city council members the lack of parking due to construction is crippling her shop. 

"Right now the construction is putting us out of business ... I am going through a very difficult situation," Lopez said.

Watsonville Director of Public Works and Utilities David Koch acknowledged that construction has gone on longer than the city has intended and, when pressed by business owners, said they could file claims for restitution with the city or against the contractor.

"It has taken longer than it should have, in my opinion," Koch said. "The city is trying to make the contractor have as little impact as possible on businesses.”

Initially, the plan was to replace curbs, gutters and sidewalks while rebuilding the street. But the project expanded to include more of Stanford Avenue and the intersection of Freedom Boulevard and Lincoln Street, according to the city newsletter, Wingspan.

As it stands now, lanes are frequently closed—one at a time—while crews work. The rough road surface slows traffic substantially.

But not everyone feels as put-out by the construction.

"The process has been somewhat noisy and vibrating (literally)," Ed Banks of KBK Insurance Agency said in an email. "Inconvenience–yes, but not too bad.  I think the firm doing the work, MPE, is pretty conscious of the businesses along Freedom Boulevard. They are working hard..."

Changing the intersection design also is a point of contention with some.

The road construction added new curves where Lincoln Street merges with Freedom Boulevard. There are concerns those new angles will be difficult for emergency vehicles to navigate and create unnecessary hazards.

Watsonville resident Jim Bacon brought the city council a petition with more than 200 signatures asking that the redesigned intersection revert back to its original straight-as-an-arrow layout.

“That really is an unsafe turn and I’d like it taken out," Bacon said.

Koch did not speak about the intersection design. He said crews will start final paving next week and should be done by the middle of March.

“We’re drawing to a close on this project," Koch said. "We’ll have it done very soon.”

regina bartlett March 02, 2012 at 02:33 AM
[Who makes these ridiculous decisions? Why aren't residents asked for input?] Good Questions itsmecissy!!! Have you been in this area around 5:00 pm? It's a traffic nightmare! Who designed the intersection of Lincoln and Freedom. It is so bad. People want to get home from work and it's all backed up. I drove thru it yesterday and the raised curbs curve out and onto Freedom Blvd like a maze...or accidents waiting to happen!!!! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING OF?????? What about the elderly and handicap drivers who used to know these streets! These streets are off of residential neighborhoods full of elderly residents. These improvements are dangerous and are not safe. Monterey Peninsula Engineering should be FINED for 'sandbagging this project'. They're dragging their feet about getting the job done so they can charge the City more money. Perhaps we need to look at other companies for bids from now and exclude MPE because of it.
Cathy P. March 02, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Regina, its like driving the "S" curve on the Bay Bridge (lol), that was a stupid idea too.
regina bartlett March 02, 2012 at 04:29 AM
yes it is! and totally stupid, I agree!
Butch Cole March 02, 2012 at 05:29 AM
I just can't help it...gotta give my two cents......I agree...what an incredible waste of money...stupid design.....how embarrassing!
Sam Duckworth March 08, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Dear Mr. Dodge I understand your frustration with the ongoing improvements to Freedom Blvd. It is always difficult to look at a project from the outside and try to decipher what is going on and how long will it take to get the tractors off the road and thing back to normal. Rest assured we do not make money dragging things along since we are on a lump sum contract . This particular project has been rather problematic due to the many stages required to handle the traffic and the changes to our contract due to unforeseen conditions. To compound the problem, additional roadway design work was added near Lincoln St and this significant change order took time to negotiate and then install. Furthermore new stringent road building requirements handed down from the State of California have been instituted on this project and the city/contractor management team struggled to interpret what was needed to comply with these new regulations. The good news is that we are now on the final lap of this improvement and feel we can have the roadway paved out by the end of this week! We will still have some minor items of work but the majority of the activity will be over. I hope this sheds some light on how projects work and illustrates that MPE is always concerned with public convenience. Please call me at our corporate office if you would like to discuss this further. Sam Duckworth

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