Work on the project started Monday, Sept. 17. Workers installed temporary flashing red lights next to the stop signs at Las Palmas and Sycamore within a couple of days of starting the project, and they cut down seven historic palm trees on Las Palmas at both Elm and Sycamore avenues on Thursday morning, Sept. 20.
Signs posted on Las Palmas Avenue indicate that construction will be ongoing through Dec. 7. However, Peter Song, an assistant project engineer from Stanislaus County's public works department, said the bulk of the work may be finished a week beforehand. In addition to installing new traffic signals and creating a new left-turn lane at Las Palmas and Sycamore avenues, the project will entail replacing an irrigation line at Sycamore and Las Palmas, Song said.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 8 to award a contract for $1.179 million to Stockton-based Knife River Construction to complete the project. The county anticipates paying a total of $1.427 million when including $130,000 for inspections and testing and nearly $118,000 for other unforeseen costs.
The intersections will largely be funded through money from Proposition 1B, which state voters approved in 2006 to help with local transportation projects. Nearly $258,000 in regional transportation impact fees, charged to the builders of all new residential and commercial development in the county, will cover the rest of the cost.
The historical palm tree-lined East Las Palmas has been the site of several notorious auto accidents, including an August 2010 crash at Las Palmas and Elm that killed James Rowell and James, Emma and Andrew Anderson.
A memorial to the Anderson family that was placed on a tree at the northeast edge of Elm and Las Palmas avenues was removed after the tree was cut down. But Song said he removed some of the items that had been there, including plastic wreaths, and placed them in a box.
“We salvaged what we could,” he said.
County public works staff is holding on to the items until the project is completed, he said, though anyone could get in contact with the county if they want those items returned, he said.
Several local residents were upset when they initially saw the trees -- which are designated as a state historic resource -- being cut down.
Rick Barron, owner of Patterson's Blues Cafe, was among those who mourned their loss, posting a note about their demise on the cafe's Facebook site on Friday, Sept. 21. However, his tone on the site changed when he learned the reason they were being removed.
"I'm kind of bummed that they're getting rid of the trees, but if it's going to save somebody's life, I'm sure the guy who put them in wouldn't have minded," he said Monday, Sept. 24.
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or firstname.lastname@example.org.