Wondering what all those tractors and construction workers are doing in front of the future site of the City Center?
Since mid-April, PG&E has been relocating underground vaults, boxes and other gas and electric utilities outward to make room for one additional traffic lane and new and expanded turn lanes on each side of the road between Alcosta Boulevard and Interstate 680.
It's the first step in the city's Bollinger Canyon Road Widening Capital Improvement Project, said Brian Bornstein, senior engineer for the city's engineering services department.
Having four lanes of traffic in each direction is necessary to accommodate the anticipated City Center—which will feature city service offices, mix residential units and retail space—and the 2020 General Plan buildout of vacant land, Bornstein added.
"We need to add the capacity because obviously there will be a lot of traffic going in and out of the City Center," he said.
But residents anxiously awaiting their own downtown will have to wait a lot longer.
Preliminary utility relocation and installation are moving forward, but plans for the City Center, designed five years ago, have not materialized due to the recession.
"It is the economy more than anything. Construction is basically on hold until the community real estate market is more sure," said Mayor Abram Wilson. "We only have once chance so we want to make sure that we get it right the first time."
A firm dollar amount needed to build the center has not yet been determined, he said, and "will depend on the commercial aspect."
The $5.5 million road widening project including utilities relocation is being fronted by the city of San Ramon and City Center and Dougherty Valley development funds.
After PG&E, Comcast and AT&T relocate "dry utilities" like fiber optic cables, the East Bay Municipal Utility District will move storm drains and other "wet utilities." Relocation work will continue throughout the summer and fall and completion is expected by the end of this year.
However, the timeline for the next step, the 18-month road widening construction period, is contingent on other factors.
While the majority of road widening affects property owned by the Sunset Development Company, the city's partner in the City Center project, a smaller section belongs to Chevron and Shops At Bishop Ranch stores including Whole Foods and Target. Negotiations are underway to acquire approximately 12 feet needed to create additional traffic lanes, according to Bornstein.
"Our optimistic expectation is conceivably starting the road widening part in 2011 but it all depends on negotiations to get the actual land," he said.
So far, the Bollinger Canyon Road widening project has not interfered with traffic and the city has not received complaints, said Wilson.
Bornstein said traffic control and lane closures just east of the road widening project are unrelated and part of a recycled water line project that has been going on for the last year and a half.
Similar traffic modifications will be necessary when construction work to widen the road begins.
Kenneth Forward, distribution project manager for PG&E, said main trenching for widening the road will be done during the day and intersections will be done during the evening or off hours.
"We've had a pretty intensive traffic control program that has been approved by the city and Contra Costa County as well," Forward said. "We plan to impact the traffic as little as possible."