April 7, 2014

$1.5 million going toward upgrades on M and R streets in Merced

Merced City Council prioritized Monday which roads in the city will see $1.5 million in upgrade money.

The Merced City Council on Monday unanimously picked M and R streets as the beneficiaries of $1.5 million in upgrade money, because both streets receive the city’s highest volume of traffic.

The decision means several streets needing work will remain worn down for now. Council members had several roads to choose from during the meeting, but the projects had to fit into the budget. “All of these streets on the list need work,” Councilman Mike Murphy said.

The council took the advice of city staff and went forward with approving the rehabilitation of M Street from Loughborough Drive to Yosemite Avenue, the largest and most expensive project on the list, and R Street from 18th to 20th streets.

Staff members identified B, G, M, R and V streets as in need of upgrades. All five projects combined would have cost more than $2.8 million.

According to city records, an engineering firm performed an analysis of the streets to estimate the probable cost for each of the rehabilitation projects. Murphy noted that M Street’s upgrade is a holdover from last year, when the city ran out of money to fix it.

G Street would receive only a new coat of asphalt, but the other roads on the list need significantly more work.

M Street is designated as an arterial road, and R Street is considered a minor arterial. City engineer Ken Elwin said those statuses made M and R streets priorities. “It provides the most benefit for the general public,” he said.

The money for the projects comes from an already approved fund for capital improvements, which drew cash from Measure C, gas taxes and the Regional Surface Transportation Program Exchange Fund.

When it approved the money during last year’s budget talks, the council decided it wanted to have a final say over the projects.

City Manager John Bramble said he hopes the California Department of Transportation will consider putting money into the B Street project. Caltrans trucks have put a significant amount of wear on the road as they use the street to move materials to crews working on Highway 99 near the 16th Street bridge.

Work has been going on in that area since 2009. Bramble said he was encouraged by the prospect of getting Caltrans dollars for B Street after officials said they would “look into it.”

During the same meeting, the council voted 6-1 to move forward with acquiring a one-bedroom house and a two-bedroom house for the Valley Crisis Center, which advocates for victims of sexual and physical abuse.

Mayor Stan Thurston cast the dissenting vote, saying he was not against the facilities but that the city would not get “much bang for the buck.”

The houses will be used as a temporary home for mothers and children escaping abusive situations, according to city staff. The roughly $300,000 to pay for the homes comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The location of the homes was not disclosed.

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