image- Hwy 1 wires
The city of Half Moon Bay is planning a redesign of the often-maligned southern entrance to downtown at Highway 1 and Higgins Canyon Road. Kyle Ludowitz / Review 

The city of Half Moon Bay is moving forward with improvements to a key intersection of Highway 1. They include installing a signaled light, creating better bicycle and pedestrian access, and eliminating a route onto Main Street at the southern access point in town. 

For about seven years, the city’s been working to make vital entryways onto Highway 1 more user friendly. Split into two projects, plans for the southern portion include putting in a new traffic signal at the intersection of South Main Street, Higgins Canyon Road and Highway 1, removing the route that leads to Main Street, and creating easier access for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the road. 

As part of the project, PG&E will be relocating high voltage power and fiber optic lines underground. 

“We thought it made sense to do the undergrounding because we would be clearing out some air space and we would remove the lines between the two poles on Main Street,” said City Engineer Maziar Bozorginia.

To pay for it, Public Works Director John Doughty urged City Council to approve an additional $190,000 from the city’s capital budget for the work. 

“If you don’t underground these lines you will be regretting it for a long time,” he said. “It will detract from your entry point into the city and you will regret not doing it.”

According to the city’s staff report, relocating the lines underground will “improve aesthetics” and ease potential fire risk. 

Undergrounding the lines would eliminate the potential for wildfires in that location,” Doughty said, because there would be no lines to fall due to high winds or car crashes. “The aesthetic benefit is a byproduct,” he said.

Councilwoman Deborah Penrose was in the minority, voting against undergrounding the lines. She cited the cost of the project as her top concern. She suggested the city enter an agreement with the other property owners in the area to share the cost of the work done by PG&E.

“We did undergrounding at the library and it cost way more, and I doubt PG&E is going to be sticking to the projected cost,” Penrose said.

She also said she didn’t think running the lines underground would make the area more visually appealing. 

When the city worked on the design of the Half Moon Bay Library, a utility undergrounding district was created. This allowed Rule 20A funds to be used, which are credits accrued by municipalities from PG&E for undergrounding in such districts. 

According to Doughty, the costs for that project were “consistent and reflected the complexity” of removing overhead lines, relocating to underground conduits and vaults while meeting the requirements of each affected utility company. 

“For practicality, if you are going to rip things up, it makes sense to take care of as much of the potential problems as possible,” Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock said. 

The total estimated cost of the project is $4.1 million, with the city receiving $3.2 million in reimbursements from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. 

PG&E reportedly determined that, because the project is initiated by the city, it would not have to pay for the project.

Prior to construction on Highway 1, PG&E expects to begin undergrounding lines and finish the work by early 2020.

According to the city’s staff report, construction on the southern portion of Highway 1 is expected to start next summer and take about 12 months.

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