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Improvements to the intersection of Del Mar Heights Road and Camino del Mar will begin in April. The project underwent several design changes and is costing the city about $500,000 more than what was originally budgeted due to a less-competitive construction climate. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Road, sidewalk upgrades coming to Del Mar’s south end

DEL MAR — Roadway and sidewalk improvements in the southern portion of the city should begin next month, nearly two years after council began discussing the project and with a price tag significantly higher than what was budgeted.

“Prices are going up, competition’s getting tight and materials are getting more expensive,” City Engineer Tim Thiele told council members at the March 5 meeting before they awarded a $1.7 million construction contract to Eagle Paving Company for work along Camino del Mar between Carmel Valley Road and the Del Mar Heights Road/Fourth Street intersection.

The work area is segment five of a $4 million citywide project approved in May 2013 to improve pedestrian access, bicycle safety, drainage and roadway paving, minimize air pollution, provide traffic calming measures and promote and protect alternative transportation modes.

Five of nine projects are complete. Three are in the design stage and this one is ready for construction.

Initial plans added a left-turn lane on southbound Camino del Mar onto eastbound Del Mar Heights Road, which remains part of the project.

Additionally, a free-right-turn lane for cars approaching Camino del Mar from westbound Carmel Valley Road was to be removed, as was one northbound lane.

City staff suggested eliminating the latter after heavy rains in 2016 caused a landslide in Anderson Canyon that forced the roadway to be narrowed to one lane in each direction for about six months.

During the emergency repair work, staff noticed the lane reduction did not appear to have adverse impacts to traffic circulation.

More than 100 people who travel those roads regularly, many of them from Carmel Valley, contacted city officials or spoke at council meetings in opposition of the recommendations.

Most said eliminating the free-right-turn lane on Carmel Valley Road would make an existing bad situation worse, as would decreasing northbound Camino del Mar from two lanes to one.

Both aspects were eliminated from the final design. However, to increase safety for bicyclists, bike lanes will be painted green, high-visibility crosswalks will be added and there will be a signal interconnect from Fourth Street to Carmel Valley Road.

A multipurpose pathway will be added to the west side of the Camino del Mar, and Thiele said “unstructured” parking in that area “will be a little bit more organized.”

The initial proposal also called for a dedicated left-turn lane from northbound Camino del Mar onto westbound Fourth Street to be reconfigured to allow cars to either turn left or continue straight.

Councilman Dave Druker opposed that element, which was also removed from the project, and the pathway, which he called “a total waste of money.”

He said eliminating the paths could save the city about $345,000.

In an effort to slow traffic and improve safety in the area, Camino del Mar will be restriped with narrower lanes and buffered bike lanes.

Once the final design was approved this past August, the estimated cost was $1.4 million. The city budgeted approximately $1.2 million, of which $924,000 remained for construction. The final construction estimate of $1.8 million includes a $120,000 contingency for unforeseen costs.

To close the $918,000 gap, council agreed to allocate $338,000 from the capital improvement reserve fund, transfer $270,000 from completed capital improvement project budget savings and take $310,000 from the general fund contingency.

Eagle’s $1.7 million bid was the lowest of nine submitted.

“It is disappointing it came in so much higher but I’m still very supportive of this project,” Councilwoman Ellie Haviland said. “I think it’s going to be a great amenity.”

“It’s exciting to finally get this going,” Mayor Dwight Worden added. “It’s frustrating that it’s as expensive as it is, but such is life.”

Work is expected to be complete in July. Thiele said at least one lane in each direction will be open at all times, with some closures possible during final paving.