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Welcome to Claremont—it’s under construction

Claremont has been abuzz with road construction lately, causing some growing pains among residents.

Phase three of the Foothill improvement project is currently underway, with some landscaping work still being done on phase two, city spokesperson Bevin Handel said last week. Phase three stretches from Yale Avenue to Mountain Avenue, and has been under construction since June.

Phase four, which will stretch from Mountain to Towne Avenue and will be the final phase, will start in mid-September, Ms. Handel said. The overall completion date is scheduled for the end of 2019.

Pomona is also in the middle of rehabbing Towne Avenue between Foothill and Harrison Avenue, with an estimated completion date of mid-November, Ms. Handel said. Work on that stretch of the Claremont/Pomona border includes replacing damaged curbs and gutters on the sides and medians, reconstructing handicap ramps and asphalt overlay, Ms. Handel said.

Signs warning drivers to seek other routes were installed weeks ago.

“Claremont has been working with Pomona on the project, but is not funding it,” Ms. Handel added.

The construction has been causing a good amount of traffic headaches in recent weeks, particularly at the intersection of Mountain Avenue and Foothill Boulevard. Jonathan Brown, who lives near Foothill Country Day School, is caught right in the middle of it.

To get to Claremont High School to drop off one of his children, Mr. Brown’s usual route is to turn right on Towne, right on Foothill and then left on Mountain. That route puts him in the epicenter of road construction projects on Towne and on Foothill.

“The opening of the school year obviously changes the traffic load dramatically, and it just seems very questionable whether much attention was paid to that,” Mr. Brown said.

He says neighbors are “basically completely closed off on both sides,” and wondered why there wasn’t outreach from the city about the road closures.

“A city that is asking us to raise our taxes in November might be a little more conscious of residents who are being put into a difficult situation,” Mr. Brown said.

He noted the timing of the Towne Avenue project along with the ongoing Foothill Boulevard project wasn’t great.

“None of this feels like anybody is coordinating anything,” he said. “Maybe that’s not true, but the feel is certainly very chaotic.”

Ms. Handel acknowledged there wasn’t formal communication with residents who live near Towne Avenue, noting that Pomona would be doing their own notices for the project. She did say information on the project was posted on social media and in the city manager’s report as a courtesy.

Regarding construction on Foothill, Ms. Handel said closing entire sections and offering full detours to drivers would create an even bigger impact on the project. Other options, such as working from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to avoid school-related traffic, would cause delays.

“We try to keep it open as much as we can while still trying to move it forward,” Ms. Handel said.

If it seems like a lot of road construction is going on at once, that’s because there’s a “sweet spot” to get projects done, Ms. Handel said. Road projects are usually done between the spring, summer and early fall seasons to take advantage of the good weather and avoid rain delays.

“We want to get as much as we can during that nice dry season,” she said. “It dries quickly, it gets done quickly.”

Claremont will also revamp its portion of Towne Avenue between Foothill and Base Line, but it is still in the early stages.   The city is working on designs, and still needs to go through the commissions and the bidding process before work begins. That project will be funded entirely through grants and restricted roadway funds, Ms. Handel said.

Protected bike lanes

One of the premier aspects of the road construction on Foothill are the creation of protected bicycle lanes, which give Claremont cyclists a dedicated, separated lane from traffic to travel east and west along the boulevard.

Two longtime local cyclists weighed in on the creation of those lanes. Larry Scheetz of the Claremont Senior Bike Group told the COURIER he’s looking at the new lanes with “mixed feelings.”

While these intersections decrease the danger of a car overtaking a bike, protected bike lanes could increase the danger of an intersection crash, Mr. Scheetz said in an email.

Tom Shelley, another local cyclist, said intersection crashes happen if cyclists are too far off the roadway and tall vegetation hides the cyclists from the drivers.

“As long as the vegetation in the barrier is kept low, the drivers should be able to see the cyclists,” Mr. Shelley said.

Claremont’s design allows for barriers between cyclists and motorists to be fairly narrow, so cyclists are not far from the drivers. The long distance between the end of the bike lane and the intersection will also give drivers plenty of time to see cyclists, he said.

Despite the potential issues, Mr. Shelley believes the city has done a good job in mitigating the dangers.

“The big advantage is people feel safer riding a bike away from traffic,”?he said. “I would hope the design of Foothill Boulevard would encourage more people to ride bikes.”

Be sure to check out our website and Facebook page for video showing construction hot spots around the city.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com