About the Colony

Traffic Way to get needed makeover

Two weeks ago in my column about new construction under way for Atascadero’s downtown area, I opined, “I hope this next phase includes the area on Traffic Way from St. William’s Catholic Church to El Camino Real, one of the most unsightly portions of the entire downtown area.”

It just didn’t make good sense to me that visitors to our city wanting to go to the outwardly classic Carlton Hotel had to drive by a section of town with poor street lighting and sidewalks that were either non-existent or in a poor state of repair, with no handicapped access and weeds everywhere.

A couple days later, David Athey, a deputy engineer with the city, tipped me off about a major remake of the Traffic Way intersection at Highway 101. Jim Shivers, a spokesman for Caltrans, confirmed that a $33 million “rehabilitation” project is planned for the freeway from just north of the Cuesta Grade overhead (the bridge over the railroad tracks this side of Cuesta Grade) to Traffic Way.

Both lanes of the freeway are scheduled to be resurfaced, all the off ramps upgraded along with some smaller creek bridges improved and finally, a complete upgrade of the Traffic Way area. This area right now looks like it did when I came here to live in the 1960s.

According to a drawing I received from the city, the Traffic Way undercrossing will be given a “Gateway” appearance. That means red brick veneer over all that concrete such as we are getting on the Morro Road/101 project, green-colored city street lights, curbs, pavers and sidewalks to match other portions of the new downtown design, another bas-relief of the city’s logo embedded in the bridge railing (such as has been done on the other project previously mentioned) and finally, all new landscaping.

This is certainly good news for downtown, which looks better with each phase of improvement projects.

There is a third phase of downtown improvements being planned, which I will report on shortly.

I understand the contract has already been awarded for the Traffic Way project and a start date is set for this spring. In fact, the project is scheduled to begin in April and will be completed by December 2011. I have been noticing all the survey work on this section of Traffic Way for weeks and was hoping something good was in the works. Now, we know.

Added to all this good news is that the project won’t cost the city of Atascadero anything. It is being paid for by the stimulus money Caltrans is putting to good use here in California.