The first phase of a revitalization effort for Auburn Boulevard is on schedule for completion this summer, with sidewalks scheduled to be done by the beginning of June, and plans underway for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Authorized in 2005, the Auburn Boulevard Complete Streets Revitalization Project envisioned a revitalized and enhanced section of Auburn Boulevard, from Sylvan corners to Interstate 80. The nearly 2-mile long project was broken into two phases, with Phase 1 covering the section from Sylvan corners to just beyond Antelope Road, and Phase 2 covering the remaining section up to Interstate 80.
According to the City’s website, the project is “the largest capital improvement project the City has undertaken,” with segments two and three of Phase 1 running about $21 million to complete.
Although hardest to obtain, funding isn’t the only challenge the City has faced in the project.
“The revitalization of Auburn Boulevard is one of the City’s most challenging projects to date,” said Development Specialist Devon Rodriguez, explaining the difficulties of designing and engineering, environmental work, and acquiring right-of-way with property owners – all of which must occur before starting construction.
Although hoping for a boost in business when complete, the construction work necessary to get there has caused a decline in customers for many of the 200 local businesses on Auburn Boulevard.
“It’s killing our business,” said Norca Army Navy Surplus Assistant Manager Vanessa McGuire about the construction outside her Auburn Boulevard store. “People don’t wanna come down this street because traffic’s so bad – they want to avoid it.”
On the positive side, she’s happy that the project undergrounded electrical utilities in front of her store, and expressed relief that business would pick up once construction finishes – although she’s skeptical the project will stay on schedule.
The City acknowledges the problem construction poses for businesses in a 3-page “Toolkit” produced for Auburn Boulevard businesses, calling it a “temporary inconvenience.” The flier stresses, however, that it will “ultimately result in a vastly improved business corridor.”
In addition to construction signs announcing that businesses are open during construction, the City also held weekly “coffee meet-ups” to discuss concerns and needs of business owners affected by the project, but meetings were discontinued this month due to the project nearing completion.
Phase 2 recently receiving grant funding to begin preliminary work, but Rodriguez said construction isn’t likely to begin until 2018, depending on available funding and negotiations with property owners.