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Bob Jones Inches Closer

Progress on a decades old community dream to connect the City of San Luis Obispo’s bike route network to the Avila Beach Bob Jones Trail – and by extension to bike corridors in Shell Beach and Pismo Beach  – got a bit closer May 9.

Over the last several years that progress has been measured in bureaucratic hurdles overcome inside County government; but a major physical link at the border of the City of San Luis Obispo was finished in 2014 with a City-to-Sea Bike Trail extension. That project installed a bridge completing the Class 1 bikeway from Prado Road and the Water Resource Reclamation Facility to Los Osos Valley Road and with the addition of repainted bike lanes at the LOVR / Highway 101 interchange last year the links are in place for City commuters.

On Feb. 24, 2015 the SLO County Board of Supervisors gave the green light for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the 4.5-mile extension from the Octagon Barn to the Ontario Road parking lot and trail header to Avila Beach.Engineering estimates from 2008 had put the cost at $10 million to complete the proposed design. Funding to even start the project, and then negotiate for property easements along the way was an issue.

And it still is.

However, at the Board of Supervisors May 9 meeting this year they were able to loosen up some funds from an unexpected source, $317,700 from the separate and postponed Avila-to-Harford Pier Pathway.

Shaun Cooper, Senior Park Planner with the County explained that the Avila to Hartford project isn’t dead, but there are extra issues, especially regarding parking in the area that have set it back.   In the meantime that $317,700 can go into the pot making up close to $1 million already set aside to make Bob Jones “Shovel Ready.” Harford is still on the long term agenda.

“We have those funds from the Unocal remediation money as well as PG&E’s steam generator project, that is intended for use in the Avila area,” he explained. “Bob Jones has been ready to go. It’s still a little short, and we don’t have construction money yet, but it’s a good estimate to work with consultants.”

Unlike construction, he adds there is wiggle room for negotiating with the consulting firms that will help them set up construction documents and arrange easements.

Routes and property rights have been an obstacle for years, as well as money. On a partially federally funded project though, the County isn’t allowed to arrange easements until their route designs pass environmental scrutiny.

Only three letters from the public were received by the Board of Supervisors in time for the May 9 meeting, two in favor of the project completion and one opposed from property owner Ray Bunnell.

Although not yet able to enter official negotiations, Cooper said, they have met with all affected property owners over the years. Even Bunnell at some point seemed open to the idea, said Cooper, but they value his current input.

“We will reach out formally,” he added, “I don’t want to say anything that would indicate we’re not taking him seriously.”

Depending on the exact route laid out by the next round of consultants, about 12 property owners would be at the table.

The County hopes to have a request for proposals (RFP) ready within a week of the May 9 meeting, but it could take until June. The costliest part of the project could be designing up to three Class 1 trail bridges and of course obtaining the properties. Consultants willing to take on the RFP would assess all that.

Actual construction could begin in another three years.

By Camas Frank

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