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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.”

Cathy P. March 01, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I wish I had known about the petition asking that the "redesigned intersection" revert back to its original layout. I'd have signed it and had a few hundred other people sign it as well. Who came up with such a hair-brained idea??? That new curve is trecherous and unsafe, even in a regular size vehicle, let alone a fire truck or ambulance. Who makes these ridiculous decisions? Why aren't residents asked for input?
Patrick March 01, 2012 at 05:52 PM
That new curve is crazy... I can see the ideal to slow people down by its beyond that... you have to come to a crawl to go thru there.
David H. Perez March 01, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I agree that this intersection redesign is a totally hairbrained idea. Where I live on Brewington Avenue (AKA Brewington Speedway), for years we have been trying to get speed bumps or some other device to slow the speeding traffic. Among the excuses given to us by the City as to why this plan would not be feasible is that speed bumps would slow response by emergency vehicles (as a side note, our City Councilman has also dropped the ball on dealing with this issue despite numerous requests). My question is, then, why is it OK to have this intersection design at Lincoln and Freedom that will clearly slow down emergency response? Not to mention the plentitude of unlicensed and drunk drivers in this town who already have trouble enough navigating the streets as they are! Also, my heart goes out to the business owners who are suffering from the protracted chaos imposed upon them by this project. Just another example of our city's "business unfriendliness."
sandra March 01, 2012 at 06:22 PM
They should have left it as is....it's gonna cause accidents! Come on Watsonville...get with the program!
sandra March 01, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I agree!
Daniel Dodge March 01, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I also share your frustration and I wrote the letter below to Monterey Peninsula Engineering expressing my concerns on the delays of the Freedom Boulevard reconstruction project. Mr. Sam Duckworth Monterey Peninsula Engineering 192 Healy Avenue Marina, CA 93933 Dear Mr. Duckworth: I am very upset and concerned about the lengthy period of public inconvenience caused by your firm’s lack of timely action on the Freedom Boulevard Reconstruction Project. The long construction period is resulting in extra costs to the City, undue disruptions to nearby businesses and unnecessary inconvenience to drivers and pedestrians. The sidewalk replacement and other concrete work have taken far too long. I have witnessed many days when there were few, if any, workers on site doing concrete work. The pavement at the Freedom Boulevard and Lincoln Street intersection was removed and partially replaced at the end of December and no work has been done since then. This weekend that intersection was left closed. Why has there been no additional work completed on Lincoln Street? When will it be finished? Please respond and indicate what will be done to expedite completion of the project. This letter was mailed on February 13, 2011.
City of Watsonville March 01, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Council Member Dodge also shares your frustration and wrote the letter below to Monterey Peninsula Engineering expressing his concerns on the delays of the Freedom Boulevard reconstruction project. Mr. Sam Duckworth Monterey Peninsula Engineering 192 Healy Avenue Marina, CA 93933 Dear Mr. Duckworth: I am very upset and concerned about the lengthy period of public inconvenience caused by your firm’s lack of timely action on the Freedom Boulevard Reconstruction Project. The long construction period is resulting in extra costs to the City, undue disruptions to nearby businesses and unnecessary inconvenience to drivers and pedestrians. The sidewalk replacement and other concrete work have taken far too long. I have witnessed many days when there were few, if any, workers on site doing concrete work. The pavement at the Freedom Boulevard and Lincoln Street intersection was removed and partially replaced at the end of December and no work has been done since then. This weekend that intersection was left closed. Why has there been no additional work completed on Lincoln Street? When will it be finished? Please respond and indicate what will be done to expedite completion of the project. This letter was mailed on February 13, 2011.
David H. Perez March 01, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I appreciate Councilmember Dodge's attempts to speed up this project for the sake of the surrounding businesses. But what remains is that when it is finally completed, we will be left with a dangerous narrow intersection that will impede emergency response. Is anyone going to deal with this???
Jennifer Squires March 01, 2012 at 11:33 PM
David, good question. How did the design come about?
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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