Odds are you’ve been caught in traffic on Tank Farm Road if you’ve driven around San Luis Obispo lately. Wondering what’s causing the holdup?
Essentially, it’s because of an oil spill — in 1926.
Parcels on both sides of the heavily trafficked road are the focus of an intense remediation effort to restore the 332-acre property after a 1926 fire and spill left much of the land covered in crude oil and asphalt-like coke — the product of the burned oil.
Use of the property for oil storage was discontinued in the late 1990s, and the last oil storage tank was removed in 2000. But before development can take place on the empty property, it has to be cleaned up. On a hot day, oil can still be seen bubbling up to the surface.
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Chevron spokeswoman Juliet Don said work right now is focused on the north side of the property, where excavators and bulldozers are removing existing soil and replacing it with clean soil.
Work is also underway on the property’s entrance to “improve the line of sight for motorists on Tank Farm Road and to make it safer for our work crews to access and leave the site.”
Lanes were recently closed while crews worked on the entrance and realigned a portion of the fence lining the road to give work crews buffer from moving vehicles, Don said. No more lane closures are expected in the near future, she said.
Chevron began its remediation work in full in 2016, Don said, and is currently working on restoring the property so 75 percent of it can be dedicated to open space and wildlife habitat, with the other parts prepared for “future development options.”
At one time, plans included a business park, more commercial development and the widening of the road, though Don cautioned that those are not set in stone.
“We are still considering the future development options for the remaining property,” she said.
This work is expected to continue until October, with the remediation portion of the project ultimately finishing in about eight years, she said.
So get used to seeing construction out in that area until around 2025 — just less than 100 years after the environmental disaster that prompted your stint in traffic.