Yucaipa Boulevard widening project still about three to five years away from completion

Yucaipa Boulevard westbound lanes, recently constructed between 18th Street and I-10 Freeway.

The Yucaipa Boulevard widening project seems to have gone on forever. However, the city and its contractors have been actively working on the project (which is actually six separate projects combined into one) for the last couple of years. The six projects include the street widening project, the electrical transmission line underground project, the electrical distribution/phone/cable TV underground project, sewer main installation, waterline installation and the raised center median installation. The combined project features the widening of Yucaipa Boulevard from four to six lanes, traffic signal work, storm drain improvements and a raised center median.

The total project was designed to be completed in three phases and the Yucaipa Public Works/Engineering Department recently announced the construction of the first two phases are nearing completion.

According to Director of Public Works/City Engineer Fermin Preciado, the first two phases of the street improvement plan were designed to improve traffic circulation to and from the I-10 freeway, in addition to improving traffic and pedestrian safety and improving drainage; other improvements include providing undergrounding of distribution and transmission electric utility lines and phone/cable TV lines, providing new sewer and water lines, and facilitating economic development in the area. From initial council approval to begin the right of way acquisition process, it took approximately eight years for the city to complete construction of the first two phases.

“Over 45 percent of this project is funded by both state and federal grant funds, local Measure I funds, as well as contributions from our partnerships with Western Heights Water Company, Yucaipa Valley Water District, and Southern California Edison,” said Preciado. “The grant funding includes Highway Safety Improvement Program Funds to improve public safety between 15th Street and 16th Street.”

Phase I

Phase I of the project is from 18th Street to the I-10 freeway. It includes undergrounding of utility lines and removal of overhead utilities, utility poles and other utility work such as utility vaults, and conduits. Although it didn’t seem like the city was working on the project, it was in fact working with the five utility companies and their contractors to underground cable, water, sewer, telephone and electrical lines.

Phase II

Phase II is from 15th to 16th Street, The improvements in Phase II between 15th and 16th incorporate the same street widening and drainage components, as well as a new roadway alignment and a new traffic signal at 16th Street designed specifically to improve safety for both vehicles and pedestrian. The construction cost of the first two phases was approximately $8.5 million. The final phase is expected to cost about $4 million.

Phase III

The final phase in the project is from 16th to 18th Street.

The city has been focusing its efforts on Phase I and II first and at this time it doesn’t have the funds to complete Phase III. The engineering has been completed for this last phase and it will take several years to obtain the funding to purchase the right of way and start construction on phase III. Preciado said if the city is successful in obtaining additional grant funding or other partnerships, it would accelerate the project schedule.

Each year, the city council prioritizes projects to complete through the Capital Improvement Program review process and essentially allocates available funding to project(s) that will move forward. Depending on what council approves, the date of completion for Phase III could be pushed back or move forward.

According to Mayor Bobby Duncan, “The city council considers many aspects such as improving traffic circulation, safety to the public, economic development and long term quality of life benefits to the community when road projects are prioritized and funded in the city’s Capital Improvement Program.”

As the main arterial street through the city, improvements to Yucaipa Boulevard have been a city council priority for years.

“However, you are now seeing city council’s priorities expanding to other arterial streets such as Avenue E and County Line Road,” Duncan said.

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