On this week's city council agenda there is an item to consider and accept an agreement with Caltrans for the Potrero Blvd Interchange. I know I'm late to the game on this one so I spent the weekend trying to get caught up. I found a digital copy of the 295 page "Draft - Initial Study with Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration/Environmental Assessment" published in May 2012 and I dug in. Following is a brief explanation of what I've learned and questions I hope some of those in the know in Beaumont can help me understand what's going on.
Here is what I know...I think.
The city council will be adopting "a resolution to approve the freeway agreement with Caltrans and authorize the city manager to execute the agreement." After doing a little reading I've determined this statement is a little misleading, at least to me.
The description of the agenda item lead me to believe that Caltrans would be working on this project with the city. So I assumed Caltrans would be contributing labor, funds and other resources to the project, maybe even State and Federal funds as well since this is an "Interchange" of an interstate and a state highway.
I was unable to find anything in the document or any other document or articles I have located on the Internet that indicates anyone will be working on this with our city. We seem to be going it alone and responsible for the entire $78 million. I was able to determine that there are some Federal funds ($5 million) available as long as the project is started by a certain deadline, I'm not sure what that deadline is.
Next, I began looking at the maps while considering the "purpose" as detailed in the study. I have to admit that before this weekend, i never really looked into the details on the project and I, like so many others, assumed it would fix the interchange between the 60 and the 10. As far as I can tell it doesn't do anything to directly address the actual interchange. So, connecting between the 60 and the 10 will not change.
Here is a description of the project taken directly from the study:
The project is on State Route 60 (SR-60) in the City of Beaumont, California (between Jack Rabbit Trail and the Interstate 10/SR-60 junction) and includes construction of a new Potrero Boulevard Interchange in two (2) phases. Phase 1 includes a new 6-lane Potrero Boulevard overcrossing (3-lanes in each direction) with a temporary connection to Western knolls Avenue. Phase 2 includes westbound and eastbound diagonal and loop entry ramps (2 lanes plus HOV lane); extended ramp acceleration/deceleration lanes; realignment of Western Knolls Avenue: and removal of Western Knolls Avenue connections to SR-60.
Here are links to two of the map images in the study (I've also uploaded them to the patch, see above):
The first map is a color map that outlines the two phases of the Potrero project, the 60 overcrossing and the link to 4th St.
The second map is a black and white map which includes the final piece of the Potrero interchange connecting to Potrero through to Highland Springs. As far as I can tell, there will be a new connection route from the eastbound 10 to the west bound 60. There also are plans to replace the 4th street route with a non-existent Potrero Boulevard all the way to the existing Potrero Blvd connecting to Highland Springs by Four Seasons and Sun Lakes . Phase two only involves the on and off ramps to the 60 and doesn't complete the entire link.
The purpose outlined in the study is to alleviate traffic congestion on the 60 that will result from future developments. As far as I can tell these developments are no longer planned to go forward. The study estimates that immediately after the project is completed, it will reduce the average number of daily trips through the congested 60 - 10 interchange by 6.5%. By 2035, the year the study estimates we will need traffic congestion relief, the project will only reduce average daily trips by 7.5%.
I acknowledge that if you live in the Tournament Hills area east of Tukwet Canyon golf course and you regularly travel to and from areas where you now take the 60, you will benefit from the proposed interchange.
It looks like the project is estimated to be about $78.5 million, $11.53 million of city funds has already been spent and the Federal government may kick in $5 million. That leaves another $62 million of Beaumont citizen's funds. I can already hear the city using the argument the school district used when reconsidering their multimillion dollar projects, "we've already spent so much we might as well finish the project. There are no estimates on the cost to finish the connection to Potrero Blvd and the transition road for eastbound traffic.
Even after the city spends $78.5 million for this project, the extension will only go through to 4th street. To connect the new interchange over Highway 79/Beaumont Ave to Highland Springs and a new transition road from eastbound 10 to eastbound 60 would require future highway projects not yet scheduled, approved or authorized.
So here is where I could use some help understanding this project. Here are my questions:
- What is the deadline for beginning the project and getting the Federal government's $5 million?
- If Caltrans' only responsibility is oversight, who will be managing the project?
- Where has the $11 million been spent and what have we received for our money?
- How are we going to pay for the remaining $62 million? - The motive for increased housing starts despite a suppressed housing market to get future CFD revenue is becoming clearer.
- Who is going to finish the work displayed in the second map? - Connection to Highland Springs and the transition road between the 10 and 60.
- Is there anyone in Beaumont who can tell me they will directly benefit from this project? - I mean the traffic improvements, not the money form construction work. :)
- Do the residents of Four Seasons and Sun Lakes realize how the proposed route will affect their traffic conditions?
- How many Tournament Hill residents will use the new interchange?
I regret that I haven't been paying enough attention to this issue before and I apologize for bringing up so many questions that may have already been answered. I don't know how else to get the answers; I doubt addressing this at the city council will get the complete answers I need. I appreciate any help anyone can provide.