Jan. 17, 2013
Hannah Guzik, OVN correspondent
Although the Fulton Street extension project has faced nearly two months of delays, aggravating some neighbors, cars should finally be able to take the new route by the end of February.
The city project, which has been in the works for more than 20 years, will extend Fulton Street from Pearl Street to Bryant Circle, crossing the Ojai Valley Trail.
The project was scheduled for completion by the end of 2012, but has been delayed due to rainy weather, last-minute revisions of plans and the discovery of remnants of a train depot station on the site, said Greg Grant, Ojai’s public works director and city engineer.
“We are darn close, we just need another month or so,” he said Monday.
Crews are expected to pave the new section of road next week and complete the sidewalks the following week. After the area is landscaped, it will be open to vehicle traffic.
Although the contractor, J & H Engineering of Camarillo, has until March 31 to complete the project, Grant expects workers to finish about a month ahead of the deadline, he said.
Due to the delays, the project is estimated to cost about $35,000 more than the $196,000 originally budgeted, he said. The project is funded through the federal Surface Transportation Program at no cost to the city, Grant added.
The project was delayed by about a month initially due to Southern California Edison making 11th-hour changes to plans that called for placing utility wires near the project underground. Although the contractor prepared the site for underground-utility placement, Edison had to install the utility wires and poles, Grant said.
Construction stalled again when Edison employees were dispatched to East Coast areas hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Work also slowed when crews discovered portions of a railway depot last used in 1969, including old brass locks, railway ties and other debris that needed to be disposed of, he said.
Then, early winter rains complicated the project. Because the soil in the area has a high clay content, it’s taken days to dry out before the roadway can be paved, Grant noted.
“It’s really important to get it placed with the right moisture content and get it sealed,” he said. “They had to install drains because the soil holds water so tightly. It’s a tricky site.”
Businesses in the area are eager for the project’s completion, especially since drivers have long used parking lots off Bryant Circle to connect to Fox Street.
“Safety is our number one priority here at the club,” said Nancy Prather, general manager of the Ojai Valley Athletic Club on Fox Street. “I support the city 100 percent and understand about the delays, but if we can avoid having people driving through the parking lot, that will be great. We’re looking forward to that.”
Grant said he’s convinced the wait — of more than two decades since the project was first conceived — will have been worth it.
“It’s going to be more walk-able, more bicycle friendly and will hopefully calm the traffic a bit,” he said. “Even though everybody’s hungry to get it finished, these delays were a small part of the total project time.”