Work 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 historical 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 earlier.
In addition to installing traffic signals and creating a left-turn lane at Las Palmas and Sycamore avenues, the project entails 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, including $130,000 for inspections and testing and nearly $118,000 for other unforeseen costs.
Work on the intersections will be funded largely with 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.
East Las Palmas, which has been lined with palm trees for more than 100 years, has been the site of several notorious auto accidents, including an August 2010 crash at Las Palmas and Elm that killed James, Emma and Andrew Anderson and James Rowell.
A memorial to the Anderson family that was placed on a tree at the northeast edge of Elm and Las Palmas avenues was removed when the tree was cut down. Song said he collected some of the items that had been left there, including plastic wreaths, and placed them in a box.
“We salvaged what we could,” he said.
County public works staff will keep the memorial items until the project is completed, he said, though anyone who wants items returned could contact the county department, he said.
Several local residents were upset when they saw the trees being cut down. The trees were planted around the turn of the 20th century and were designated as a state historic resource in 1974.
Rick Barron, the owner of Patterson’s Blues Café, was among those who mourned the trees’ removal, posting a note about their demise on the café's Facebook site Friday, Sept. 21. His tone changed, however, when he learned the reason they were 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 email@example.com.