Santa Teresa: A whole new world

After more than six months of work, the city put in one last

Gilroy
 – Motorists accustomed to dodging potholes along Santa Teresa
Boulevard were pleasantly surprised Wednesday when their morning
commute led them along a newly paved and freshly painted portion of
the city’s western artery.
Gilroy – Motorists accustomed to dodging potholes along Santa Teresa Boulevard were pleasantly surprised Wednesday when their morning commute led them along a newly paved and freshly painted portion of the city’s western artery.

After more than six months of work to widen and repave the western side of Santa Teresa, the city put in one last hectic 14-hour day to switch traffic flow along the 1.3-mile stretch to make work on the eastern side possible. The lane switch occurred Tuesday evening after three months of planning and a healthy dose of anxiety, according to city engineer and inspector Steve Beams.

“How do you take a major artery in the city and actually shift everybody safely over?” Beams asked.

The biggest headache involved shifting traffic signals from one side of the road to the other at the points where Santa Teresa Boulevard intersects with First Street, Longmeadow Drive, Mantelli Drive and Welburn Avenue.

“Do we do two intersections a day? Or do four intersections a day?” Beams asked. “There was a lot of discussion and a lot of planning. Safety was the number one concern as far as this project went.”

The answer involved coordinating multiple work crews and city and state transportation workers. During a 14-hour stretch on Tuesday, two crews of about 10 to 15 people each started from opposite ends of the roadway, working toward each other from First Street and Longmeadow Drive.

“It’s very difficult to get into the traffic and work over the traffic,” Beams said. “That’s what took the most time.”

Workers completed the lane switch at 7pm.

“There were only a few complaints and I only had a couple of bad hand gestures from motorists,” Beams joked in an e-mail announcing the lane switch.

A few employees at South Valley National Bank, at the corner of First Street and Santa Teresa Boulevard, agreed the freshly paved and widened road is a big improvement.

Bank teller Roberta Marquez pointed out that the old road was “narrow and had potholes.” But now she and a fellow teller who commute to work have a new headache – no left turns into the bank off Santa Teresa, now that the eastern side of the road is closed.

They held out for a final verdict until the project is complete.

Beams expects the Santa Teresa upgrades, which began in June, to be largely complete by July, with finishing touches extending into the fall. In addition to widening Santa Teresa from two to four lanes, work crews are installing sound barriers and sidewalks, and burying power, telephone and other utility lines.

Looking ahead to when the city opens up both sides of the highway to traffic, Beams predicts that the final shift is going to be a lot easier.

“Most construction workers and project managers will be able to sleep at night,” he said. “There’s not nearly the amount of sidewall, not nearly the amount of utilities. This side is not a walk in the park, but everybody’s excited.”

After reaching the project’s half-way mark, Beams thanked both workers and drivers.

“I especially take my hard hat off to the construction workers who were out in traffic 14 hours all day,” Beams said, “and to the general public for their understanding.”

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