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Streetscape may be greenlighted

Phase 1 could launch by mid-month
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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The first phase of Auburn Streetscape could begin later this month. Monday night, the City of Auburn’s Urban Development Authority was expected to authorize a construction contract with Cook Engineering, a Rancho Cordova firm. Cost for phase 1 is estimated at $2,227,378.62. The 10-phase project, when completed, will stretch from Elm Avenue to the Historic Courthouse, with an estimated total cost of more than $20 million. Work could start as early as June 15 on the centerpiece of the project — at the intersection of High Street and Lincoln Way. The Downtown five-way stop will be reconfigured into a four-way stop and sidewalks will be widened, Public Works Director Jack Warren said Monday. In addition, utilities will be relocated underground and there will be street improvements. “The funny intersection will become more conventional,” Warren said. “It will be more pedestrian friendly and less conducive to traffic through town. The idea is to create friction with amenities to get people to stop and get out of their cars.” The focal point will be Endurance Plaza. “It will recognize endurance athletes,” Councilman Kevin Hanley said. There will be three pedestals for statues and granite pavers “with the name and year that person won the event, and the name of the horse for Tevis Cup (events),” Hanley said. “We have the Arts Commission working on the artistic part of it,” he said. “(We thought) while redoing the site, why not put some historic character in there? “ Target date for completion will be December. Then planning could begin for the next phase, depending on economic considerations. “We’ve worked for the last two years to expand the redevelopment area to get some money to finance infrastructure,” Hanley said. “We had special legislation passed by the (state) Legislature to give us control of (that section of) Highway 49. The city now owns that. “The whole idea is instead of treating it as a highway that goes through our town, to make it into an attractive place for people to shop, hang around and have dinner.” During the construction phase, residents can expect some disruptions and detours, but the city is working to minimize inconvenience to businesses. “The plan is to keep access to businesses open,” Warren said. “There may be some plank boardwalks and innovative access points. But everyone will be able to serve their clientele.” Cook Engineering was the lowest of seven bidders for the project and the cost includes a built-in 10 percent contingency. “This is fully funded and ready to go,” Hanley said. “We’re going to fund it phase by phase. This is the first time we’ve done this, so we want to make sure we get it right and do a good job.” Hanley noted an interesting feature that may come to light during construction in the area of the five-stop intersection. The area used to be a swampy place that constantly filled with water, he said. So, a long time ago when city fathers tore down the brick county jail at the courthouse, they dumped the building into the swampy section along with various other things. Before it held the current Walls Fargo bank branch, and prior to that, Placer Sierra Bank, it was the site of the First Congregational Church building (now located on Auburn Ravine), Hanley said. “(The church) was nicknamed the swamp angel,” he said. “So it will be interesting to see when they start digging if they see the old county jail.” Although some decorative touches have been added to the city in recent months, including the new crosswalk striping at the entrance to the Gold Country Fairgrounds on High Street, Phase 1 marks the beginning construction of the Streetscape project. The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.