Palo Alto's reconstruction of California Avenue, which officials had expected to complete by the end of this year, is now expected to stretch until March 2015.
City Manager James Keene informed the City Council of delay at Monday night's meeting. The construction project, he said, is now at about the halfway point and the contractor is "making good progress." But because of complications having to do with the replacement of a water main under the street, work is now expected to take an extra three months to complete.
Keene told the Weekly that the water pipe was 75 years old and was located very close to the gas line, so "plans had to be significantly altered and re-routed."
The $6.9 million project, which commenced in March after almost four years of public hearings and intense opposition from a group of area merchants, entails the widening of sidewalks and reduction of lanes from four to two. The city also plans to replace all street furniture, reconstruct the plaza at Park Boulevard near the Caltrain station and create a "flexible" plaza between Birch and Ash streets. The goal is to make the city's "second downtown" more pedestrian friendly and economically vibrant, similar to University Avenue or Mountain View's Castro Street.
Keene said the replacement of the water main has been completed and the construction of streetscape improvement is now "in full swing." He said city officials will continue to meet with area merchants to discuss the progress of the project. He will also provide more details about the work and the delay at the Sept. 8 council meeting.
This week, jackhammers were blasting through concrete on the south side of California Avenue, between Birch and Park, as workers were installing new curbs, gutters and sidewalks. Various portions of the street and sidewalks were blocked for construction, forcing cars and pedestrians to go around. A similar project was taking place on the north side, between Ash and El Camino Real.
The delay comes just as the city is preparing to conclude another ambitious construction project: the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center. After more than two years of delays, the city's largest library is finally set to open to the public in December. The city will also offer residents docent-led tours of the new library and community center on Sept. 27.
When told about the California Avenue project delay, Ronna Devincenzi, former president of the now defunct California Avenue Area Development Association, said she hopes the streetscape project won't follow a similar pattern of delays and cost increases.
"Hopefully, it won't be like the Mitchell Park Library," Devincenzi said.
The streetscape project work is being performed by Redgwick Construction under a $6.9 million contract the council approved in February.