What’s going on with First Street?

What's going on with First Street?

Discussions between Gilroy and Caltrans on First Street improvements are ongoing, according to an update from city hall released earlier this week.
The two phase project on State Highway 152 includes replacement of a century old waterline located underneath First Street and repavement of the entire roadway from Santa Teresa Boulevard to the intersection of Leavesley Road and Highway 101.
Both require a permit from Caltrans before any work can commence.
“As a city we acknowledge it is a quality of life issue for those driving on First Street and we are working diligently with Caltrans to work on the condition of that road,” said city administrator Gabe Gonzalez.
The poor condition of First Street, with its potholes and gullies, has long been a complaint among the city’s approximately 50,000 residents.
Last year, when the city public works department released the biannual state of the streets report, which scores the surface quality of Gilroy’s 264 lane miles of paved roads, First Street received a PCI (Pavement Condition Index) of 53, considered “at-risk” – less than the city’s goal of 70. The average PCI score of all Gilroy’s streets is 66.  
Since First Street is a state highway, Caltrans has the final say over any repair projects. The $5.2 million waterline replacement project will be paid entirely by the City of Gilroy, but the city still needs Caltrans approval. Gutierrez said city staff is currently working with Caltrans on getting the necessary permit to start work.
“We are living on borrowed time with those pipes,” said Mayor Roland Velasco. “The new waterline is going to serve not just the businesses of First Street but the surrounding residences. We are ready to go as soon as we get Caltrans approval.”
Gonzalez and Mayor Velasco recently met with the Director of Caltrans District 4, which includes Santa Clara County to discuss the waterline replacement project and various options for repaving Highway 152 / First Street.
The entire repaving project is estimated to cost $5 million. In October of last year, then-Mayor Perry Woodward said the city could borrow the full amount from VTA (Valley Transportation Authority) but after the city’s latest discussions with Caltrans, the city was told the state agency would likely not reimburse the city of Gilroy if they decide to go this route.
Velasco doesn’t like the idea of taxpayers being on the hook for repaving a state highway.
“It’s not good policy for city taxpayers to pay for a state responsibility,” said Velasco.
Instead, the city of Gilroy is considering whether to borrow $1 million from VTA or use city funds to design the project and pay for the planning and environmental documents. This would help “speed up the process,” said Gutierrez.
“We wouldn’t have to compete with other projects for SHOPP (State Highway Operations and Protection Program) funds.” SHOPP projects are undertaken by Caltrans and scheduling depends on the agency’s other competing priorities. If the city goes through the SHOPP process, the repaving project risks being delayed until 2021, with construction starting even later.
If the city completes the initial design phase of the project, the City of Gilroy could then enter into a financial contribution agreement with Caltrans and access other “pots of money,” explained Gonzalez.
“The project would not have to be put through the SHOPP competitive process,” he said. 
The city could get started on the design work as soon as possible, according to the city’s report, and advertise and begin construction as soon as the financial contribution agreement with Caltrans is signed, possibly completing the project in 2018/2019.
But, for now, it’s still “wait and see.”
The city’s full statement can be found here: http://www.cityofgilroy.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=153