Nearly the entire length of Market Street in North Long Beach will be getting an overhaul after the City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a $12.1 million project that will install new lighting, street trees and other improvements that could improve pedestrian and cyclists’ safety.

But the initial request started out much smaller.

North Long Beach council member Al Austin recalled just over eight years ago the community was lobbying for the installation of a single traffic light at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Market Street to allow for children who lived south of Market to safely cross the corridor to Bret Harte Elementary on the north side.

The city has slowly put together funding from multiple sources including a $2.6 million allocation that Austin said was applied for years ago, but the fine-print said wouldn’t become available until 2020. Now the city is preparing to break ground next month on what Austin called one of the biggest public works projects in his district in years.

“And it’s one that I think will have the most impact on the character of the community and it will invest in a critical area, an area that desperately needs the attention,” Austin said.

Austin noted the condition of the street, which is littered with patches and filler, and said it would improve the condition of one of the worst streets in the city.

A car drives down Market Street in North Long Beach, which could get a much-needed $12 million facelift if approved by City Council. Friday, April 1, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

A slew of improvements will replace the asphalt and pavement along the street, install new bus benches and shelters along the sidewalk and add rapid-flashing beacons to improve crosswalk visibility. More aesthetic additions like decorative lighting and decorative crosswalks are part of the project that is slated to take nearly a year to complete.

The center turn lane will be removed to widen sidewalks on some stretches of Market and to add bike lanes on other stretches of the street.

The 2.2-mile project will extend from the Los Angeles River to just east of Cherry Avenue, where the city’s jurisdiction of the road starts to be split with the city of Lakewood. Traffic lanes will be narrowed along that stretch to slow vehicle speeds and allow for new bike lanes that will link to existing bike avenues in the city.

The project reflects the city’s “complete streets” approach to road fixes that looks to address road repairs but in a way that benefits pedestrians and other modes of transportation. Public Works Director Eric Lopez said Tuesday the project is expected to be completed by September 2023.

Funding for the project is coming from a variety of state and county sources like Proposition A and measures M and R, all of which was passed to help fund transportation projects in the region. The city is also using $2.6 million in CalTrans funding that it was approved for the project by Los Angeles Metro.

However, there still is a roughly $6 million funding gap to cover the full scale of the project, and part of Tuesday’s vote by the council requested additional funding from both the state ($2.8 million) and federal governments ($3.2 million) to complete the project.

A Public Works spokesperson said that if the requested funds are not granted, the city can still move forward with the project but the scope of it may have to change. The project is anticipated to start in May and could take over a year to complete.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.