It’s noon on a Wednesday in San Luis Obispo.
You head to Costco for a quick lunch break. But on the way back, driving east on Los Osos Valley Road, you hit traffic.
The light at Calle Joaquin turns red. And you wait. It turns red again.
People start to dangerously merge into the lane ahead of you. And finally, if you are lucky, by the third light change you make it across the freeway overcrossing and head toward South Higuera Street.
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Rush hour bottlenecks have plagued Los Osos Valley Road for more than five years. The San Luis Obispo City Council, on Tuesday, took a significant step toward fixing the problem.
The council approved issuing a request for proposals for construction management of a $33 million project to widen and improve the roadway. The management contract, for up to $2.4 million, is one of the final steps needed before work can begin in November and finish by 2016.
A plan to fix the bottleneck has been in the works since 2001. It has involved lengthy discussions with Caltrans, lawsuits filed and later settled from residents living nearby and the land acquisitions to make it all work.
The interchange project, in planning stages since 2001, will widen Los Osos Valley Road to four lanes between the Calle Joaquin intersection and South Higuera Street, a distance of about 4,200 feet.
A two-lane bridge will be built south of the existing overcrossing. Westbound traffic will travel on the existing bridge and eastbound traffic will be routed onto the new bridge.
Other improvements, such as widened sidewalks and bike lanes, will also be included. The $33 million interchange project is expected to accommodate increased traffic for up to 20 years.
The firm that will be hired is expected to oversee the construction work and environmental monitoring.
“Any project like this is a balance between construction activity and closely monitoring any environmental impacts that could result,” said Barbara Lynch, city engineer.
In May, the City Council will be asked to approve the final funding plan for the project. The city is paying for half of the project, mostly with money from impact fees and other assessments paid by businesses such as Costco, Home Depot and Target who have opened stores in the immediate area. About $700,000 also has come from the city’s half-percent sales tax approved under Measure Y, said Tim Bochum, deputy director of public works.
The remaining half of the project will be paid for with a combination of state and federal money procured through the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments. The California Transportation Commission will be asked for final approval of that spending in June.
Preliminary work is expected to begin in November with a quiet period during the holidays to prevent too much disruption. Work will then resume in the beginning of 2015 and is expected to last 18 months.
“It is such a large project it has taken a long time to get to the finish line,” said Bochum. “But fortunately we are getting there.”