SOLANA BEACH — After more than a decade of planning and 15 months of construction, city leaders officially “reopened” about a 1-mile stretch of Coast Highway 101.
“All I can really say is, ‘Wow,’” Mayor Mike Nichols said. “This project has been going on for quite some time and I know that many of you have been waiting … and waiting … and waiting some more.”
Speaking to the many residents who attended the Sept. 22 ceremony, Nichols said the project “could not and would not have happened” without their support.
“The public was instrumental in the design and planning through public workshops,” he said. “As I looked back through my notes on the workshops from 2005 and 2006, I kept seeing the same names repeated again and again.”
Those people included Tom and Marge Petre and their son, Greg, Jim Harker, Nadine Frymann, Bryan Fuller, David Herrington, Carl Turnbull, Harry Guzelimian and the late Dave Martin.
“Your persistence really helped and your patience is much appreciated,” Nichols said.
Discussions to renovate the west side of Highway 101 from Cliff Street to Dahlia Drive date back to the late 1990s.
A Highway 101 Specific Plan, developed with help from the late architect Steve Adams, was adopted in 2003.
Beginning in 2005, the city held workshops and met with property owners to garner input to refine the design plans.
At one time the project called for roundabouts and reverse-angle parking but those options were omitted following public and cost concerns.
Major goals included protecting, supporting and encouraging local businesses, maintaining community character, encouraging bicycle and pedestrian activity, increasing parking, decreasing speeding and addressing environmental sustainability.
The project features 57 new parking spaces, three new bus shelters, four new crosswalks and several themed meeting plazas with new street furniture.
“And finally, after 27 years of being a city, we have a continuous sidewalk from one end of town to the other,” Nichols said.
The speed limit was lowered to 35 miles per hour through the corridor, and a shared bike lane, or sharrow, was added in the southbound lane.
The approximately $7 million project was funded primarily by a financing plan offered by the San Diego Association of Governments that issued bonds to move construction projects forward.
Cities could make payments using their annual TransNet funds, which come from a voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation projects.
When Councilwoman Lesa Heebner learned of the program a few years ago she said she “jumped on that opportunity.”
“Thank goodness Lesa was awake and paying attention at that meeting,” County Supervisor Dave Roberts, a former Solana Beach councilman, said when presenting a proclamation to the city for the project.
The roadway was never actually closed but construction caused traffic congestion and delays. Work was done in phases, beginning on the north end of the corridor, with most of the worst impacts taking place during the summer and holiday seasons.
Many business owners were angered and not all survived, but construction manager Glen Bullock began meeting with them regularly to mitigate some of the issues.
Nichols called his efforts “herculean” as the project was “substantially completed” in June, about three or four months early, although some work still needs to be completed.
Nichols also thanked the business owners for enduring “a long year of disruption, inconvenience and pain.”
“I believe this project carries on a great tradition we have established here in Solana Beach,” Nichols said. “We pride ourselves on the creation of unique and distinctive improvement projects that reinforce our community character and identity.”
Those other projects include the Coastal Rail Trail, Cedros Avenue and Fletcher Cove, which Nichols said are “individually special.”
“But collectively, they make Solana Beach a wonderful place to live, work and visit,” he said.