Smoothing the Way

Although it isn’t quite done yet, the Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming Project has finally reached the point where one can drive the length of the street (at least, from El Camino Real westward to a few blocks just beyond Alameda de las Pulgas) in quiet comfort: on Tuesday the sixth of June the folks from O’Grady Paving finally finished laying new asphalt along the main section of Hopkins Avenue. (There are three additional blocks of Hopkins Avenue east of the Caltrain tracks that run from Arguello to Winslow streets, but those blocks were not part of the project.)

This week’s work was a welcome relief for the many people who live along or adjacent to that street, as well as for the many, many folks who use Hopkins Avenue as an easy way to get between Alameda de las Pulgas and El Camino Real. For quite some time now the street has been in some state of construction or another, and, as I noted, although the work is not quite done, what is left is mostly smaller, focused tasks that won’t involve closing multiple blocks of roadway at a time to through traffic.

For a variety of reasons, this project has seemingly taken forever. It really started in August of 2015, when a couple of Redwood City staff members met with a small group of residents to hear their concerns and to get ideas for changes to the street. Based on that meeting, a traffic calming concept was developed and presented at a community meeting in December 2015. Then, the design went through several modifications, fed by public input gathered at a series of community meetings. This part of the project was slowed in part by the then-mayor’s insistence that consensus be reached (something that is pretty much impossible for a project affecting such a large number of community members with widely differing opinions and ideas). It took until July 2019 — nearly four years after the initial project meeting — before the pilot phase of the project was actually initiated. Installation of that pilot, using mostly temporary materials to mock up the project’s various elements, took a couple of months. Then a survey was conducted to get community feedback on how the pilot project elements were working. In total, more than 400 responses from distinct addresses were received.

In early 2020 a community meeting was held to present the results of the survey. That meeting, though, turned into a lengthy forum for individuals to express their opinions and make suggestions. Then, in May, although the City Council expressed overall support for the project, their concern for the city’s finances proved to be too much for this project. When the Council learned learned that the materials used in the pilot were relatively robust and thus would last for a couple of years, they jumped at the chance to delay full implementation and allowed the pilot remain for much longer than had originally been planned.

It wasn’t until July 2021 that the City Council gave the green-light to making the pilot project permanent, and putting the project out for bids. However, in the process of making the detailed construction drawings that contractors would need to make their bids, the city made some “unexpected discoveries” beneath the street — that of course caused things to be delayed yet again. Thus, the project lost another six months or so, and didn’t go out for bids until March of 2022 or so. By the end of April, the Council was finally able to award a construction contract to O’Grady Paving.

With the contract awarded, you would think that things would quickly get underway, but once again the city decided to tweak some details of the project, after which they again asked area residents for feedback on those tweaks. Finally, by July 2022 the project got underway for real, when crews began reworking some of the underground storm drain and sanitary sewer access points. Following that work, the many curb cuts at the various street intersections with Hopkins Avenue were rebuilt. This work proceeded off and on until late 2022, when the rains started coming down in earnest. To the surprise of no one who lived through those storms, that season’s rains caused significant project delays. Thus, it took until May of 2023 before grinding of the existing pavement — which is a precursor to paving — began.

With the top layer of existing asphalt removed, paving finally actually got underway. That occurred all last week and the first two days of this week:

Today, the roadbed is basically complete. However, the striping thus far is only temporary:

As well, all of the sewer and storm drain access points have been buried beneath the asphalt. Soon they’ll be jackhammered out and manhole covers will be installed. Also, the temporary speed humps that were installed as part of the pilot were removed before the old asphalt was ground down; real versions made from asphalt will be added back soon. And finally, the new islands will receive their landscape elements. I expect this will go quickly, given that the islands are pretty much ready for planting, with irrigation lines and wiring for irrigation valves already in place, and with a bed of soil awaiting the new trees and plants.

With just a bit more inconvenience and noise (to get to those sewer and storm drain access points, I’m assuming that a jackhammer will be involved), the Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming Project should be complete, after eight long years. Hopefully the project will meet its stated objectives, which are to “increase pedestrian and cyclist safety, pavement lifespan, and slow down the vehicle speed on Hopkins.” I presume that the city will once again install its monitoring equipment to verify current vehicle speeds; the results of that monitoring — which I hope will be made public — should be interesting. Finally, I hope that the city has learned a lot from how this project was done, so that it can do any future street rehabilitation projects in a more timely manner…

Rebuilding an existing street while maintaining as much access as possible has to be a tricky thing, and in that regard I think we have to give high marks to the contractors. When it came to the really disruptive work — grinding and paving — access to individual homes understandably had to be cut off for a time, but the work was done pretty much block-by-block, and access was restored just as soon as possible. For individual homeowners, street access appeared to have been restricted for no more than about four hours at a time (cars simply passing through were of course blocked off for much longer, but signs provided detours for them). Plus, homeowners for the most part could see the crews approaching their block and thus had warning to put their cars on side streets if necessary. All-in-all, the whole thing seemed fairly painless, if a bit noisy at times.

After spending a fair amount of time watching Hopkins Avenue getting paved, I made sure to check in on a couple of other projects around the city. Most are making steady, but not terribly noteworthy, progress. I was pleased, however, to see that one of them had enjoyed a paving project of its own between my visits to the site:

In case you don’t recognize the above, this is the new CVS pharmacy rapidly nearing completion at the corner of Bay and Woodside roads. Unlike the CVS that it is replacing (directly across Woodside Road; it is the only thing left of the old Broadway Plaza shopping center), this one will have a drive-through, which will be accessed by using this lane off of Bay Road to reach the rear of the building:

After looking over the CVS I naturally had to cross over Woodside Road and check in on the progress of the Broadway Plaza project. Although from my photographs it may not look like a lot has happened, there actually has been a lot of activity on site over the last several weeks, with some digging underway to enable the large underground parking garage that will underpin the six-building project.

Finally, my wife and I at long last made it to the “Mini Cafe” — the little coffee hut made from a shipping container by the front of the CZI building at 1180 Main St.:

She had a coffee, and I had a lemonade. I’m delighted to report that both were delicious! The Mini Cafe is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Monday (when it is closed). They have a variety of food items to go with their drinks (we have yet to try any of those, but we plan to go back), and there are plenty of places to sit in front of and on the Maple Street side of the Main Street building. The site is a bit out-of-the-way, tucked in behind the massive ELCO Yards construction project as it is, but (especially if you enjoy watching construction, as I do!) it’s worth seeking out. You’ll find them at the corner of Lathrop and Elm streets; just head down Maple from El Camino Real, or up Maple from Main Street, and turn onto Lathrop Street. You’ll see the Mini Cafe on your left when you reach the next corner.