City drives for Middlefield Road repairs

Nascent plans to restripe Middlefield Road and make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians could balloon into a full-scale effort to improve sidewalks and put all utilities underground.

The $180,000 restriping plans would add a central turn lane and potentially add a bicycle lane from Fifth Avenue to City Hall. However, the city also has some utility credits from Pacific Gas & Electric to run electrical and telephone lines underground, providing the chance to improve the look of a major entry into the city, Councilmember Ian Bain said.

“A lot of people come straight up Middlefield to get to City Hall or downtown, and right now they’re driving through a blighted neighborhood,” Bain said. “If we beautify it, we’re going to raise the whole quality of life.”

The city already has the money set aside to restripe Middlefield and will present several options to residents during a workshop Dec. 3, engineer Chu Chang said. It doesn’t have the funds for streetscape improvements, however, and PG&E’s roster of projects to underground utilities is significantly backlogged.

Redwood City last put utility lines underground in 2000, when it treated most of Roosevelt Avenue, though it didn’t have enough funds to finish the job.

“It’s a major project, because we have to replace other utilities, including water and sewer, and PG&E will only pay for its own,” Chang said. “We have to finish Roosevelt, and we also have Whipple Avenue — we need to go to the council and see which one they’d like to do first.”

Bain hopes to jump on the Middlefield section because San Mateo County, which controls the segment of Middlefield Road between Fifth Avenue, is looking at a similar utility project. Improving the whole stretch would piggyback on the improvements Redwood City has made downtown, Bain said.

Crews spent a year burying utility lines from Encina Avenue to Fifth Avenue in the early part of this decade; now, the county is waiting for PG&E to become ready to do the stretch from Encina to MacArthur Avenue, at the Atherton border, said Karen Pachmayer, acting principal civil engineer for the county.

Once the county gets the green light, the project could take a year to plan and another to complete — but when that green light comes through is anybody’s guess, Pachmayer said.

“We check in with them often, and they tell us, ‘Hopefully soon,’” she said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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