City takes key step in Creek District upgrades

A long-sought project to build bridges over two flood-prone San Marcos streets took what city officials called a “major” step forward this week.

City Council unanimously voted to authorize the city manager to award a contract with a soon-to-be-named construction manager for the suite of projects, which include the construction of vehicular bridges over Bent Avenue and Via Vera Cruz.

It’s a key infrastructure project that residents have anticipated for years, as both streets are frequently closed during heavy rains due to overflows from the San Marcos Creek that runs over both streets.

The $100 million project is being paid for largely with Federal Highway Administration money, and the federal agency has delegated oversight of the project to  Caltrans.

The council’s vote on June 26 authorized City Manager Jack Griffin to award the contract as soon as Caltrans signs off on the pact, which could be as early as six weeks.

City officials said the construction manager will oversee the entire project, which also includes the widening of Discovery Street, construction of a promenade area and environmental mitigation.

“They will be managing the project from cradle to grave in terms of the construction side of it,” City Manager Jack Griffin said. “The project … is well beyond city staff’s capability.”

City Council members pulled the item from its consent agenda, where it would have been approved without discussion, to recognize the importance of the step.

“This is a pretty good milestone for the infrastructure of the city,” City Councilman Chris Orlando. “I didn’t want it to pass without a little bit of recognition.”

Griffin said if the timeline holds, the city could go to bid for the actual contractor and could select the contractor by the end of the year. Residents could see construction start as early as spring 2019, with completion expected two years later.

Improving the infrastructure around San Marcos Creek is part of a multi-pronged revitalization of what the city has dubbed the “creek district.” Two large affordable housing developments have gone in on the area’s eastern edge, and the city is currently retooling the master plan for the remainder of the district, after a consultant warned that it relied too heavily on retail.

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