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Wye Rd. project focused on safety

November 20, 2012

This intersection at Wye Road and U.S. 6 has been the site of a higher-than-average number of accidents, according to state statistics. The remedial goal of a Public Works improvement project is to increase traffic safety by widening and aligning the streets and adding turn lanes. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

A City of Bishop Public Works improvement project, designed to increase public safety by decreasing the potential for traffic accidents, is nearing the breaking-ground stage.
The Wye Road Intersection Improvement Project is designed to improve the Wye Road and North Main Street/U.S. 6 intersection, said Public Works Director David Grah. The project was conceived to make the intersection safer, he explained, an intersection that saw about 2,200 vehicles per day in 2007. “The City Council is anxious to get this project constructed.”
Both roads will be widened somewhat to accommodate new, dedicated left- and right-turn lanes and align lanes across the intersection – “right now there is a significant jog,” Grah said. Storm drains will also be added on Wye Road.
Statewide Integrated Traffic Record System statistics show that there have been 10 collisions at that intersection between April 2001 and March 2011, said Caltrans Public Information Officer Florene Trainor. Although none of the collisions involved fatalities, the numbers indicate “a higher than average total number of accidents … That means we are having more low-severity impacts than might be expected. Aligning the through lanes should help motorists decide where the other drivers are headed and avoid conflicts,” explained Trainor.
Grah said that concerns about potential traffic hazards first arose – likely voiced by city staff, Caltrans and the public – during the 2000 Kmart/Vons shopping center development proposal process. “The benefit of widening the intersection was identified at that time,” said Grah, and it is still a “growing concern due to continuously increasing traffic, especially truck traffic, on Highway 6.”
The enhancements required the purchase of land and procurement of additional right-of-way. Although Caltrans owns the west leg of the intersection, additional property needed to widen it had to be purchased from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, explained Grah. The city bought that property from DWP on behalf of Caltrans with Caltrans funds because it is a city project, “so the city needs to do all the things necessary to get it built.”
Currently, there is a tentative purchase agreement for a second property, the lot east of U.S. 6, that is owned by Joseph Enterprises. The agreement, which has been in negotiation since 2009 and is based on the city’s 2010 fair market value offer of $24,500, was approved by the Bishop City Council on Nov. 13. “We are anxious about getting the property owner’s signature … The language of the agreement may or may not be acceptable to them,” explained Grah.
Triad Holmes Consultant engineers prepared the legal description of the property being transferred and submitted it to Inyo-Mono Title Company, explained Triad engineer Matt Schober.
Relocation of certain utilities is another aspect of the improvement project. Grah explained that “Verizon uses the Southern California Edison power poles so their facilities will need to be relocated. In addition, it appears there are Verizon facilities underground in the area” and possibly as-yet-undiscovered Suddenlink facilities.
Construction of the renovated crossing is a sequence of events, some of which will be simultaneous, said Schober, who has been with the project since 2007. Once Edison receives the relevant deeds proving that the city owns land, it will process and record the easements needed to begin utility pole relocation, he added. (An easement is the right to cross or use someone else’s land for a specified purpose.)
The utilities relocation is expected to be completed by April 2013. Schober said, “Once that’s done we can begin the main portion of our engineering work which is road design:” widening and aligning Wye Road and the northwest corner of U.S. 6 and adding the turn lanes. Currently, large “trucks don’t have enough room to execute turning movements while staying on the pavement.”
The project is entirely funded by contributions of $300,000 from Kmart and $647,000 from Caltrans. No city monies are expected to fund the project, said Grah.
A new storm drain design has been completed and Triad will try to complete the road improvements design this winter and send it out for bid in spring, said Schober.
If all goes according to the Wye Road Intersection Improvement Project plan, motorists can expect improved navigation through that junction in 2013. “We are really looking forward to having this safety issue resolved,” said Schober.

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