Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jan 31st Start Date for Graham Hill Road Project

Fifth district Supervisor Mark Stone joined Asst Director of Public Works Steve Wiesner and Project Engineer Russell Chen at an informational meeting on Tuesday night at SLV High School to present plans for the upcoming Graham Hill Road Improvement Project.  

Construction is scheduled to begin on January 31 with completion anticipated by the end of 2011.  Monterey Peninsula Engineering will be the General Contractor.

Less than one mile of the road will be affected, however at a cost estimate of nearly $3 million the project is among the biggest public works the County has undertaken in some time.  The steep grade, sharp curve, narrow right of way, the high average rainfall - which often turns portions of the road into a river - and the sensitive habitat, all contributed to the high cost for the improvements.  
Federal funds were used in planning and State Highway Improvement Funds were captured for the construction.

The road is a primary route from Felton to Santa Cruz and carries thousands of cars each day.  The improvement will cover the section from the entrance to Roaring Camp to the pull-out lane, .61 miles up (east) and will add a left hand turn lane for cars coming down to enter Roaring Camp.  Currently no left turn is posted but often ignored at the entrance to the popular attraction.

Plans for the improvement have been in the works for over ten years. The initial drawings presented to the community for a much wider thoroughfare  were roundly rejected as inappropriate.  The current plan is scaled back and will save more trees, including a large Redwood on the western side of the road.   Still a good many more trees will  be lost on the eastern slope (where PG&E has already cut a wide swath) as grading will be required to increase the road shoulder and install a drainage system in that area.

The drainage system is the most complex part of the plan and is intended to make the road much safer in wet weather.  The pavement will also be grooved similar to the current surface.

Wiesner, a Felton resident and regular user of the road, spoke about the great lengths that will be taken to mitigate the environmental impact of the project. Professional vegetation and wildlife specialists including certified biologists and entomologists will be on site looking out for nesting birds and other sensitve habitats.  

He did not discount the impact the project will have on humans.  On January 31st, tree cutting will begin, requiring temporary lane closures between the 8:30AM and 4:30PM on weekdays.  This work is expected to last up to two weeks.  There will be a short hiatus before serious construction begins April 15th and continues through the summer, fall and perhaps most of the winter.  The work will create significant delays and backups.  Wiesner said that every effort will be made to keep at least one lane of traffic open during construction with traffic controls.  With the exception of residents in the area, Wiesner suggests using Mt Hermon Rd or Highway 9 as alternative routes.  

For information on county maintained roads visit  For more information on the day to day Graham Hill Road Improvement Project contact Russ Albrecht at the County Department of Public Works 831-477-3953.

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