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Paving the way to progress

City moves forward with Edwards Boulevard project

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City officials are moving forward with a plan to revamp Edwards Boulevard in order to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, and plan to implement a flood mitigation system after gathering recommendations from the community.

Officials hosted an open house on Jan. 28 at City Hall to discuss needed improvements on the street, from the south side of Park Avenue to the boardwalk, including the construction of clearly marked bike lanes, bump-outs, new curbs, sidewalks and crosswalks.

In 2015, the state Department of Transportation awarded Long Beach nearly $1.1 million in funding from the Transportation Alternatives Program, a DOT initiative, to pay for the work. The design was based on public input, and officials said it would make Edward Boulevard safer and more attractive.

In 2013, the City Council passed a “complete streets” policy, with the aim of revitalizing the downtown area and making improvements along Park Avenue, which paved the way for the grant. “Complete streets” are roads designed for safe, convenient access that can be shared by those of all ages and abilities, from pedestrians and cyclists to motorists and those who use public transportation, according to the DOT.

“During the process of the adoption of the complete streets policy . . . we would look at not just the need for cars, but also for pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Patti Bourne, the city’s director of economic development and planning.

Officials said that the plan for Edwards Boulevard aims to alleviate safety issues among its users. “I am pleased that the Edwards Boulevard project is moving forward as we continue to focus on what matters most to Long Beach residents,” City Council President Anthony Eramo said in a statement. “Not only will the road be repaved and the landscaping enhanced, but the project will reduce flooding and increase pedestrian and bicycle safety. These are critical infrastructure improvements in our city.”

Edwards Boulevard residents, who had called for bike lanes, enhanced pedestrian safety and flood mitigation, got a look at renderings of the proposed project at the meeting.

City officials said they planned to incorporate elements of “green” infrastructure, including trees, vegetation and storm water storage vaults, which would also reduce flooding during storms. The drainage system would be built under the grass median in the middle of the street.

“There’s a cross-section, and it shows pipes underneath the median, so the road is going to be what’s called ‘milled,’” Bourne explained. “It’s going to be scraped off, and the slope of the road is going to be sloped toward the center, so when it rains, the water would move toward the center into the pipes. It would get the water as quickly as possible off the road.”

The city has been working with an engineering design firm, Bourne said, to map out the project, and is waiting for approval from the DOT to move forward. Officials would then seek bids for the construction, which is expected to begin in the fall and take four to six months, she said, depending on the weather and other factors.