By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
Caltrans revealed its designs earlier this month for the planned $50 million overhaul of Laguna Beach’s section of Coast Highway that’s expected to kick off in September.
The most painful part of the project will be the replacement of an underground concrete culvert at North Coast Highway and Broadway Street that allows Laguna Canyon creek to empty into the Pacific Ocean. Andrew Oshrin, a branch chief for design at Caltrans, said the nearly 100-year-old culvert’s concrete is deteriorating and its rebar is exposed. During the construction, traffic will be narrowed to at least one lane in each direction and is scheduled to kick off after Labor Day and will take about a month to complete.
“We realize that construction is a pain to everybody; it creates traffic and delays and nobody wants to get stuck in traffic, but unfortunately this is the cost of keeping the roadway in good condition,” Oshrin said.
The culvert replacement will be a complicated one, considering the ground the highway is on is riddled with electrical, gas, water and sewer lines. Oshrin said Caltrans pledged to not compound the problems of summer beach traffic and restrict its construction between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
Arguably the more ambitious part of the Coast Highway renovation is the construction of a continuous wheelchair-accessible sidewalk from Ledroit Street to 7th Avenue in South Laguna. Construction crews will build new sidewalks where there are none or widen existing sidewalks to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new sidewalks and curb ramps will require construction crews to narrow Coast Highway in some sections.
Shohreh Dupuis, assistant city manager and director of public works, said city staffers are also coordinating with Caltrans on a plan to build a sidewalk from 7th Avenue to the southern city limit within 10 years.
“We want to make our Coast Highway sustainable and resilient and something that will serve the citizens of Laguna Beach and California and the taxpayers well into the future,” Oshrin said.
Although most of the project will be funded by the state gas tax, Laguna Beach will contribute $10 million to the see the project completed. Even though Coast Highway is owned by the state, Laguna Beach is kicking in to get access to the gas tax funds as soon as possible.
Councilwoman Toni Iseman suggested that Caltrans consider installing a new crosswalk at Moss Street because the intersection at that stretch of Coast Highway only has a sidewalk on one side of the street and hosts a trolley stop. As someone who lives in that neighborhood, Iseman said pedestrians would benefit from not having to walk to the next closest sidewalk at Diamond Street.