City OKs $2.1M to complete Downs St.

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

City OKs $2.1M to complete  Downs St.The Ridgecrest City Council approved more than $2.1 million at its Jan. 15 meeting to finish the project to widen Downs Street.

Public Works Director Bard Lower told the council that while the east side lanes were approved in 2018 and completed in 2019, the city did not have the funds to finish the west side of the project.

Lower said that the city applied for federal funds to complete the project in July. The deadline for requests was August, but by the time the city had submitted its application “all federal funds were exhausted.”

Staff began seeking alternative funding sources. “The city needs to move forward,” said Lower. “You can’t leave a project out there half completed.”

Because Downs is considered an arterial road, the additional paving qualifies for traffic impact fees, said Lower. The engineer’s estimate for base project costs is $1.66 million.

Lower also recommended funding the estimated $475,000 to add sidewalks, curbs and gutters. “It completes the roadway and gives it a finished look,” he said.

He said there is enough money in Measure V to fund that part of the project.

Lower said that staff has noted a trend that shows a reduced cost in bids that come in between November and March, “since contractors are making sure they have enough work for the coming season … there is an urgency to move forward as soon as possible.”

Mayor Peggy Breeden said that since the project does not have to comply with federal standards, “we are saving money by doing it this way.”

“But the money is coming out of the city of Ridgecrest’s pockets, instead of federal pockets,” said Lower.

He told the council and attendees that the city has been trying to widen Downs Street since the 1990s (although Vice Mayor Mike Mower said that the effort started even before that).

Originally the project was scheduled to be funded through tax allocation bonds. The project was sidelined when that $2 million was reallocated.

Other delays have been caused by negotiations with SCE to reposition utility poles in order to complete the work.

Fencing for the related youth sports complex will also need to move, but an agreement has already been reached, said Lower, adding that the project is not anticipated to disrupt league play.

Poles and fences are expected to be moved by May so that construction can begin in June.

“We will come back to the council for additional engineering costs,” said Lower.

The council approved the project, 4-0, with Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens absent.

Pictured: South Downs Street shows new pavement on the east side and crumbling asphalt on the west. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-01-24