Construction on a bridge that would connect the southernmost portion of Jackson Avenue in Murrieta to Ynez Road in Temecula could be forthcoming.
Murrieta City Council once again prioritized the project, known as the Jackson-Warm Springs Creek Bridge, in a public workshop held Tuesday to discuss the city's Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal year 2012-2013.
The $5.5-million project may go out to bid immediately, according to City Manager Rick Dudley. The city is trying to avert construction falling during the upcoming rainy months of winter, as the project is expected to take eight months to complete.
"We could get caught out there trying to build a bridge over a running creek," said city of Murrieta Engineer and Public Works Director Pat Thomas.
The news will likely be welcomed by business owners along Jackson Avenue, a segment of roadway south of Murrieta Hot Springs Road that runs behind but dead ends at Warm Springs Creek
Businesses such as , the owner of which said in a recent council meeting he has been waiting for the bridge for seven years since relocating from Temecula.
The chief complaint of owner Erik Kitley has been lack of visibility and poor access for customers, and he reminded the city of the commitment they'd made to build the bridge.
"The biggest thing I have been told (by customers) is we never knew you existed," Kitley said. "My request of council and staff is to make it a priority like you said you would last year."
The project was moved to the top of the city's priority list in , and was to be built with redevelopment funds.
Later in 2011, however, In doing so, special districts such as the city are no longer permitted to collect and bank tax increments to improve blighted areas.
At the time, the city was planning $41 million worth of redevelopment projects.
This time around, the Jackson-Warm Springs Bridge was listed as the top priority in the city's newly appropriated Capital Improvement Plan. It will be funded with gas tax revenue, development impact fees (DIF) that can solely be used for streets and freeways, and proceeds from the sale of nearby land to the city of Temecula for its use in the French Valley Interchange.
In all, $10.1 million in capital improvements projects would be added under the city's newest plan. Some of the other projects are synthetic turf at Los Alamos Hills Sports Park, phase two of the Meadowlark (Whitewood Road) improvements, an expansion to the Murrieta Senior Center, landscaping at the Los Alamos Road/Interstate 215 interchange, design phase of Second Avenue Park, and pavement and asphalt resurfacing throughout large portions of the city.
"All these funds—Measure A, DIF, etc., can only be used for these projects," Thomas said.
Additionally, the plan includes another $15.1 million in projects for fiscal year 2013-2014 should redevelopment bond money be released back to cities under Assembly Bill 1484. The legislation calls for bonds to be spent for their original purpose, according to city of Murrieta Finance Director Joy Canfield.
"It will be January 2014 before we know if we can use any of those bond proceeds," Canfield said.
City projects on the 2013-2014 list include improving Madison Avenue south of Murrieta Hot Springs Road, designing improvements for Antelope Road, improving the over-crossing at Intestate 15 and Los Alamos Road, restrooms at Town Square Park, and landscaping at the Clinton Keith Road/Interstate 215 interchange.
While the plan must still go before the Planning Commission on Wednesday night, and then before the city council for a final vote at its next meeting, city staff say there is no harm in seeking contractor bids for the bridge. Everything else such as plans and environmental reviews are already in place, according to staff.
"We know after tonight that it is a priority for city council," Dudley said. "We can't award it until they approve it, but we have a reasonable expectation we'll be OK."
In addition to providing an economic surge for businesses along the corridor, city council members agreed it was vital for public safety. The bridge would provide another north-south route between the cities, alongside Interstate 15 and Jefferson Avenue.
"If we had a catastrophe in this area...like 9/11...we would be in total gridlock," said Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs. "If we move forward with this tonight, it is high-tide."