A long-planned revamp of Studebaker Road in East Long Beach has gotten more expensive, and its start date has been pushed back, which has led the city to seek funds to pay for repairs that were more complicated than expected, city officials said Tuesday.
Studebaker runs from Second Street to Los Coyotes Diagonal within the city and is one of four major corridors the city has identified for major renovations, which include Market Street and Artesia Boulevard in North Long Beach, both of which are currently under construction.
The Studebaker project was originally projected to cost about $18.5 million, but Public Works Director Eric Lopez told the City Council on Tuesday night that figure was a mistake and the new projected cost is about $38 million.
“When we do get started with construction, this will be the largest major corridor project that we will have undertaken,” Lopez said, noting that the stretch of road is about 5 miles long.
The Artesia “Great Boulevard” project that the city broke ground on earlier this year is about 3.25 miles long and is expected to cost at least $36 million. Lopez said in December that the Studebaker project was expected to start at the end of 2023.
A number of issues were discovered as teams began to assess the road in the design phase, Lopez said, like a need to build in stormwater diversion elements to keep rain runoff from entering the wetlands areas near Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway.
The city is also looking to lay fiber optic cable along Studebaker to connect that portion of the city to the city’s fiber network.
A $5 million request to Congress for funding to pay for pavement improvements and things like a transit boarding island, separated bike lanes, updated signals and fiber-optics along Loynes Drive and Studebaker has been submitted to the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.
Lopez said that the city is also pursuing about $17 million more from a variety of local and federal sources, including $2 million from Measure W, since the stormwater element is being incorporated into the updated plan, and $6.5 million from a settlement the city reached with the Orange County Transportation Agency in 2017.
The $13 million settlement was originally planned to be used on streets near the 405 Freeway interchange with the 605 Freeway, where a bottleneck was created where the widened Orange County portion of the freeway meets the Long Beach portion with less lanes.
In 2017, the city identified Bellflower Boulevard, Los Coyotes Diagonal and Willow Street as roads that could see improvements because they were expected to absorb additional traffic, but Lopez said the city is working with Caltrans to divert some of the settlement funds to the Studebaker project.
The city currently has about $24.7 million allocated for the project.
“There will be impacts to the schedule, but those impacts outweigh what we get from getting these federal dollars into the project,” Lopez said.
Councilmember Daryl Supernaw, who requested the update Tuesday night, asked the city to assess alternative designs if all the funding needed to complete the project as designed can’t be secured.
“If this is not doable, if we don’t have the funding, what is Plan B?” Supernaw said.
The new expected timeline is for the city to put the project out to bid in the fall of 2023 with a potential contract award being approved by the City Council in the spring of 2024. Construction would start sometime after that.
Studebaker Road conditions have continued to deteriorate as the city secured funds to move forward with the project. Some sections of Studebaker have a pavement condition index score—the metric the city uses to grade road conditions—in the 20s and 30s. Roads with PCI scores below 40 are considered poor or very poor and can require a full reconstruction.
The improvements are expected to add protected bike lanes, shorter and safer crosswalks for pedestrians, updated traffic signals and medians with new landscaping that are intended to slow traffic down along the busy corridor.