American Canyon leaders ended 2019 on the public works front by looking ahead to long-planned Green Island Road renovations and reflecting on Donaldson Way tribulations.
Green Island Road was built a half-century ago and had its last major renovation in 1988. Today’s version, with its two lanes and rough patches, serves the city’s growing industrial core.
For several years, city leaders have talked of improving roads in this warehouse world. On Dec. 17, the City Council authorized issuing $6.75 million in bonds to pay for Phase 1 of a two-phase project, with another bond issuance expected in about a year.
“This is an important milestone,” City Manager Jason Holley said.
The $14 million Green Island Road project includes widening and reconstructing an eighth-of-a-mile of Green Island Road, building a Napa Valley Vine Trail section and reconstructing Jim Oswalt Way, Mezzetta Court, Commerce Boulevard and Hanna Drive.
First, though, comes putting overhead utilities underground and rebuilding two railroad crossings, with work to start in 2020.
Taxpayers in general won’t pay back the $6.75 million loan. Rather, the cost is to be covered by a 979-acre industrial area special taxing district, with property owners paying $883 per acre annually for projects and $54 per acre annually for maintenance.
Consultants told the City Council that the interest rate for a 30-year loan could be 1.5 percent to 3.1 percent. That sparked a side conversation about possible other loans not covered by the special taxing district.
“Is this a time for the city to kickstart some other projects we’ve been wanting, considering how low those rates are?...I’m thinking community center or park improvements or Clark Ranch (park),” City Councilmember David Oro said.
City Councilmember Mark Joseph instead listed a Newell Road extension as a priority. He favors projects that create economic opportunities and generate revenue to finance such things as a community center, he said.
“A point of order, this is a future agenda item. I think we’re going astray here,” City Councilmember Kenneth Leary said, leaving that line of thought for another day.
On Dec. 3, the City Council accepted as complete the Donaldson Way project. That project involved filling in sidewalk gaps and making other improvements between Highway 29 and Carolyn Drive, in part so students can walk more safely to school.
“It used to scare me half to death to see kids walking that two-block section of the street,” Mayor Leon Garcia said.
But the Donaldson Way project had had its troubles since the City Council approved hiring a contractor for up to $635,000 in June 2018. Joseph called it “a frustrating project” that cost the city credibility points.
“This is just a classic example of, if everything could go wrong, it did and seemingly did again,” Joseph said.
One problem involved installing extended curbs to calm traffic and shorten pedestrian crossing distance. The original design was too narrow for some buses to make the turn. An extension was installed and forms for another in place, leading to rework that city officials said cost a few thousand dollars.
City officials also said disputes with the contractor resulted in the project languishing and ultimately ceasing. In August, the city replaced the contractor with Ghilotti Construction, which was already doing a local paving project.
All of this led Holley on Dec. 3 to talk about lessons learned.
From now on, the city will formally consult on road projects with the fire district and the Napa Valley Transportation Authority that runs the Vine bus service. That is to ensure the projects are designed to handle larger fire engines and buses.
Also, Holley talked about pre-qualifying contractors. That would allow the city to look at such things as Occupational Health and Safety Administration violations that can indicate poor workmanship, he said.
Most importantly, Holley said, the city will make public outreach a specific pay item for contractors. That should lead to more outreach in the neighborhood affected by a project.
“It can be embarrassing for a team of doers and engineers and construction folks when things aren’t going well ... a lot of time, you might want to decrease your engagement,” Holley said.
But if delays mean the road in front of people’s homes is going to be torn up for an extra month, community outreach needs to increase, he said.
“Sometimes, it’s a bit of humble pie to recognize lessons learned,” Garcia said. “But those are valuable lessons.”
Barry Eberling's memorable stories from 2019
Here's some of my 2019 stories from the Napa County world of transportation, wine and communities - nothing too heavy, but hopefully with useful information.
Napa County reporter Barry Eberling takes on the American Canyon commute and talks to the experts about how it might change.
A local man successfully named To Kalon Creek and now Constellation Brands wants the name removed because of wine trademark concerns.
This is just a fun story - behind-the-scenes looks at familiar Napa sights.
Napa County's newest city of American Canyon tries to find where it fits in.
You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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