There is no better time than now to finish repaving and restriping Park Street. The COVID-19 shelter-in-place directive provides an opportunity to get the job done with the least amount of disruption to our local businesses. Plus, the upgrade would be a nice welcome-back gift to our merchants when things return to normal. The city’s Public Works Department has pointed out some challenges to making this happen though.
While both ends of Park Street were repaved in the past couple of years, the area between San Jose and Santa Clara still needs attention. The street pavement, striping, pits and black tar lines look shabby and reflect badly on the commercial district. It looks like a place in decline.
Repaving it is currently targeted for 2022.
Before repaving begins, however, sewer work needs to be done. “The city coordinates the precise locations of streets to be resurfaced with the city’s sewer plan,” said Public Works Director Liam Garland. “We don’t want to dig up a street right soon after it’s been resurfaced.” The city also ensures that EBMUD, PG&E, and telecommunication companies do not have plans to dig up a street for five years after repaving.
Despite area shutdowns, utility companies remain on duty, work on public infrastructure improvements continues and rightly so. Public works departments need to respond to emergencies in the public right of way, such as street flooding, sewer backups, and sinkholes. And similar sewer and repaving projects continue around the Bay Area. Guidelines have been issued to help workers avoid health risks while trying to complete public works projects.
“We currently have a sewer reconstruction project between San Jose and Santa Clara planned for next year,” said City Engineer Scott Wikstrom. “With the reduced street traffic on Park Street due to COVID-19, we are determining if we can accelerate the planning for this sewer work and complete it in the next few months. If the sewer is completed early we may be able to move up the paving.”
Experts are predicting that it may take some time for people to feel comfortable congregating again once shelter-in-place orders have been lifted. If this project could be expedited to take advantage of the current lack of activity in the business district and the projected slow time ahead, it would be a nice silver lining in an otherwise bad time for businesses.
The city could offer free parking in the civic center garage while work is in progress. And since downtown traffic is minimal at this time, few drivers will be affected and detours would be easy to implement.
Much of the city’s pavement funding comes through Measure BB sales taxes and the gas tax, and, if need be, the city could consider dipping into its reserves to fill a funding gap to take advantage of this opportunity.
The value of completing the sewer work and laying new pavement and stripes cannot be overestimated. Park Street businesses are “essential” to our local economy, and they will need help recovering from the shutdown. Besides completing basic infrastructure needs during this slow time, the upgrade would show our community pride and give us a welcoming commercial district to visit when we can finally go out.
Originally published in the Alameda Sun