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Plans to widen Lower Sacramento Road may be delayed

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Posted: Friday, April 4, 2003 10:00 pm

Although the administrative work is moving forward on the next phase to widen Lower Sacramento Road, the steamroller may not be.

City Engineer Wally Sandelin outlined for the Lodi City Council on Wednesday plans to widen the roadway from two lanes to four between Harney and Kettleman lanes, but noted the project could be delayed.

The city has been working with county and state officials on the project for about 18 months, he said.

When completed, the project will include widening about a mile stretch and adding a raised landscaped median similar to the portion of Lower Sacramento Road north of Kettleman Lane. That part was completed in November 2001.

While the council approved the initial study and environmental documents for the next section this week, members will likely be asked to OK project plans and specifications, and authorize bids in June. Construction would ideally begin in 2004 and take about nine months.

However, it may be delayed for at least or year or two given the state's budget deficit. The project is estimated at $4.2 million with about $2.86 million expected from state transportation funds.

While the city's section to widen will stop just north of Harney Lane at Kristen Court, Sandelin said the county will continue adding lanes in its jurisdiction down Lower Sacramento Road to Eight Mile Road.

The next phase will include straightening out the curve, just south of the Harney Lane-Lower Sacramento Road intersection. But, Sandelin said, the county is still in the process of acquiring the right of way to complete it. Other details were unavailable.

Mayor Susan Hitchcock has voiced concerns that the city would widen the road south of Kettleman Lane to four lanes only for it to crowd back down to two lanes before southbound motorists get to the stop sign at Harney Lane.

"As one who drives that every day … it already begins to back up. We're just creating a funnel," she said.

Both she and Councilman Larry Hansen urged the city to work closely with the county to create a smooth transition.

Sandelin said that allowing the county to handle realigning the intersection will save the city some costs.

But the state budget issues could be a bigger roadblock, Lodi Public Works Director Richard Prima said.

"We may find ourselves sitting on this for two to three years," he said.

Sandelin said the majority of the funds for the project are State Transportation Improvement Program funds. The availability of those funds are forecast years in advance by making assumptions regarding the expected federal and state revenues, he said.

At this time, the revenues are lagging and, therefore, the delivery of STIP funds to projects is also lagging.

"The state does not have the ability to advance funds and, as a result, projects will have to wait until funds become available," he said, adding that the city is not in danger of losing the projected STIP funds but may not receive them until fiscal year 2004-05 or 2005-06.

The California Transportation Commission has developed a funding priority concept.

First, projects in the STIP will not receive funds before the year they are programmed. The Lower Sacramento Road Project is programmed to receive construction funds in 2002-03.

Second, state highways will have a higher priority than local road projects.

Extending Century Boulevard through to Lower Sacramento Road has also been delayed but this time it's due to city budget issues, Sandelin said. That project is linked to completing DeBenedetti Park.

"We have the plans in hand," he said. "We just need the funding."

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