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With traffic levels low, best time for road projects is now
• Downtown sewer line replaced
El Camino Avenue road work
El Camino Avenue is closed in downtown Ceres between the northbound Highway 99 off-ramp and Pine Street so that construction may take place on a sewer line replacement. The city is proceeding with plans for some road construction projects as well. - photo by Jeff Benziger

City officials acknowledged on Monday that capital improvement projects will go on as planned while California society has come to a grinding halt under its shelter in place order from Gov. Gavin Newsom designed to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

California residents have been ordered to stay home from work or work from home with the exception being essential workers – including road construction and many city employees.

One project currently underway is a sewer line replacement between Fourth and Pine streets in downtown. The project was awarded on Aug. 26, 2019.

City Engineer Daniel Padilla asked for direction on whether or not to proceed on two other infrastructure projects. One of them is the $1.9 million construction contract for Whitmore Avenue corridor improvements between Moore Road and Eastgate Boulevard. The project involves widening Whitmore Avenue between Moore Road and Eastgate Boulevard with asphalt overlay, and new 10-foot-wide sidewalk with curb and gutter to make for a better and safer pedestrian route. The work also includes installing a new sewer main and sewer laterals, and water services and fire hydrants as well as storm drainage piping. A new center median will be constructed in the section. To improve safety of pedestrians, signage, a pedestrian beacon signal system, solar speed flashing equipment and street lighting will also be installed.

Padilla asked if he should signal the contractor to begin plans to start the project.

City Manager Toby Wells said the only risk of starting would be a shortage of supplies for the contractor.

“As I see it today, I would recommend us moving forward with that infrastructure, especially the Whitmore project just because of its road impacts and the traffic impacts,” said Wells. “What better to do a large road project when there’s no traffic? So obviously there’s a little bit of risk there but because of its infrastructure relationship I have a hard time thinking the governor’s going to tighten it down to take away that aspect of essential service. I think there’s a lot of other places that he would likely tighten down on before he got to construction of critical infrastructure.”

Mayor Chris Vierra said the city should proceed, given that disruptions have been minimized because of low traffic.

Construction was originally expected to begin in April and to be completed before the 2020-21 school year begins.