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Hwy. 101 design plans set to begin

SOLANA BEACH — After voting unanimously at an Oct. 4 meeting to participate in a long-term financing plan to fund improvements along Coast Highway 101, City Council directed staff to move forward with final design plans for phase one of the project.
The city has been discussing plans to revitalize and enhance that roadway since 1996. During a series of public workshops and meetings, residents said their top priorities included wider sidewalks along the entire corridor, bike lanes on both sides of the highway, roundabouts and slower vehicle traffic.
Preliminary plans include all those elements as well as a proposal to add reverse-angle, back-in parking and reduce the north side of the roadway to one lane in some areas. As part of phase one, many of the center medians would be eliminated or reduced to accommodate additional bike lanes and wider sidewalks.
If roundabouts are used as a traffic calming measure, they would not be installed until the next phase. Residents and city officials are hoping the changes will encourage people to visit the area and discourage drivers from using the approximately 1-mile stretch of Coast Highway as an alternative when traffic backs up on Interstate 5.
Only a handful of residents and business owners addressed council and all were in favor of the project.
“This is very exciting,” resident Gerri Retman said. “Thank you for keeping this revitalization and enhancement of 101 a priority.
“It’s really going to transform the city in a lot of ways to have those contiguous sidewalks and the reduced lanes to slow that traffic down,” she said. “It will allow people to see the shops better. I think it will be good all the way around for businesses.”
“I’m pretty ecstatic about the project, to tell you the truth,” property owner Jim Rogers, an advocate of reverse-angle parking, said.
City Manager David Ott said that if everything goes right, construction could begin in about a year. The estimated cost for phase one is $4 million, with the entire project expected to cost between $12 million and $15 million.
Phase one funding will come from a financing plan being offered by the San Diego Association of Governments that issues bonds to advance construction projects.
In 1987, San Diego voters approved TransNet, a 20-year, half-cent sales tax for transportation projects. It was extended to 2048 in the November 2004 election.
Cities receive regular payments from TransNet funds. SANDAG is issuing federal Build America Bonds and allowing jurisdictions to use their TransNet money to make payments.
Solana Beach, one of only about four cities that chose to take advantage of the program, is seeking to borrow up to $6 million. The city currently receives about $333,000 annually in TransNet funding.
Council members were happy to see the project move forward.
“It seems like we’ve talked for years about this, but tonight we acted,” said Councilman Dave Roberts, who thanked Councilwoman Lesa Heebner for presenting the SANDAG plan to the council.
“I think it’s a great thing and I think that even more funding will materialize when people see what we’re doing,” he said.
“I never thought I’d see it so soon,” Councilman Mike Nichols said.
Councilman Joe Kellejian predicted success once the entire project is finished.
“We will be, really, the darling of not only North County, but we’ll be the darling of the entire region and people will want to come to see what we’ve done,” he said.