Years in the making, a San Mateo County Public Works project to overhaul a busy half-mile of Middlefield Road through North Fair Oaks is out to bid now. Construction is set to start in the spring.
The project, currently estimated to cost $28.9 million, will narrow the hectic stretch of the road between Pacific Avenue and Fifth Avenue from a four-lane road to a three-lane one, with a center turn lane and one lane in each direction.
In addition, the county will widen sidewalks to 12 feet, reconfigure parking so that it is parallel rather than angled, and add buffered 6.5-foot-wide bike lanes. Other elements of the project include replacing sewers from Douglas Avenue to Sixth Avenue and putting overhead utilities underground from MacArthur Avenue to Fifth Avenue.
New trees, stormwater-absorbing gardens, bike racks and road and pedestrian lights are also planned. To improve pedestrian safety, the county plans to extend curbs at intersections and add high visibility crosswalks with flashing lights to alert drivers when pedestrians are crossing.
The county Board of Supervisors first started funding the project back in July 2013, according to Ann Stillman, deputy director of engineering and resource protection with the county's public works department. At that point, the project was estimated to cost $12.5 million and had a more limited scope, focused mainly on safety improvements and signage, according to county reports.
Approval for the project involved working with many local, state and federal agencies, as well as Union Pacific Railroad and getting all of the necessary permits and licensing agreements from those agencies was time-consuming, Stillman explained in an email.
It's a big project, and construction is likely to cause some disruptions, she noted.
To minimize impacts to the road, the plan is for construction work to take place on only one side of Middlefield Road, in segments of two blocks at a time. Delivery and service vehicles will continue to have access to businesses, and emergency vehicle access will be provided, according to county staff.
Over the years the project has been in development, public input was collected from about 2,100 people, who indicated favor for wider sidewalks, bike lanes and parallel parking, according to the county website. The main concerns people raised during the approval process were about the impacts the project will have on on-street parking and about the impacts to businesses during construction, Stillman said.
The project is set to eliminate about 50 parking spots, but the county has already added 43 parking spots at the surface lot at Middlefield Road and Second Avenue, and planned to add 16 more at the Berkshire Road and Huntington Avenue.
The timing of construction may be hard on small businesses along Middlefield Road, given the pandemic's ongoing toll.
"The business situation is currently extremely precarious for many," said Everardo Rodriguez, chair of the North Fair Oaks Community Council, when the project was discussed in November.
The county's Office of Community Affairs is planning outreach to the community to keep residents informed about the project and what kinds of disruptions to expect via website, text, signage, social media and items like door hangers or posters, according to Jose Moreno, management analyst with the county.
Community council member Blair Whitney also suggested using one of the billboards along the project stretch to alert residents about the project's progress.
The deadline for bids to be received is Jan. 14 at 2:30 p.m. Construction is estimated to begin between February and April and last 12 to 18 months, Stillman said.