At long last, First Street work finishes

City officials celebrate completion of years-long project

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SMOOTH SAILING The finishing touches on green bike lanes and other improvements along First Street wrapped up recently. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

For the greater part of the past decade, one of Gilroy’s most-traveled corridors showed its wear and tear: potholes, alligator cracking and faded lines were among the chief complaints from First Street users.

A nearly two-year water and sewer line replacement project, which dug up channels in the road and forced traffic to a crawl, resulted in further aggravation for businesses, commuters, bicyclists and the population in general.

But after the numerous headaches, flat tires and missed appointments due to traffic, the First Street rehabilitation project is finished, making it quite possibly the smoothest roadway in Gilroy.

City officials held a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony at the corner of First Street and Santa Teresa Boulevard on Nov. 13 to celebrate the accomplishment.

“This is a very exciting moment,” Mayor Roland Velasco said, thanking residents, staff and construction crews. “You guys have been very, very patient through this whole thing. I know it’s been tough. You’ve had to endure the construction and the delays, but you made it work, and we certainly appreciate that.”

Caltrans contracted Granite Construction of Watsonville for the project.

After lobbying from city officials such as Velasco and then-City Administrator Gabriel Gonzalez, the California Transportation Commission approved more than $14.1 million to reconstruct the pothole-laden First Street from Santa Teresa Boulevard to Monterey Street in June 2017, also known as Highway 152. 

Velasco said he and Gonzalez took Senators Bill Monning and Anna Caballero on a “road trip” through First Street in 2017, “hitting every pothole.”

“We expressed our concerns to the senators that this was their highway that runs through our city,” Velasco said.

The city began sewer line improvements in mid-2018.

Following that project’s completion, the city went to work replacing 8,000 linear feet of the 100-year-old water line underneath First Street. The estimated $5.4 million project was completed in late fall of 2019 after months of various lane closures and temporary water shutoffs.

City Engineer Gary Heap said the work went beyond the reconstruction of the road following the water and sewer line replacement. It made the roadway into what is known as a “complete street,” taking into account not just vehicles but also bicyclists and pedestrians.

As such, new curb ramps, flashing beacon crosswalks and the first green bike lanes in the city were among the upgrades added to the corridor.

“These infrastructure upgrades will benefit the community for years to come,” Heap said. “It’s been a long road, but we think it’s been worth it.”

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