EL CENTRO – The Austin Road cement island near Imperial was a hot topic once again at the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Supervisor Ryan Kelley, District 4, asked for the subject to be put back on the agenda as many in the agricultural community have had repeated trouble negotiating around it or on top of it as they move heavy equipment from one client to another.
Many feel the momentum was lost over the summer and are anxious to see solutions.
The problem began when Monterey Park subdivision developers needed a bridge over the canal that runs parallel to Austin Road as an access road from the soon to be built development.
Locals dubbed it “the bridge to nowhere” as no street had been laid yet. However, when the street came, a need to keep the public safe caused engineers to design a safe left hand turn against oncoming traffic.
The developer, through bond money, was to pay for the solution and several were engineered. The cheapest was a median in the middle of the road that prohibited left hand turns. That, to the consternation of farmers and farm equipment contractors, was the worst possible choice for their needs.
Director of Public Works, William Brunet, said that as development continues, routes to move farm equipment from one end of the valley to the other becomes limited. Austin Road remains one of the main avenues to move heavy equipment from the south end to the north end and back.
However, a tractor can’t get through there, because the median takes up the roadway and a telephone pole happens to be on the side of the road to prohibit going around the median.
The median also has barrier poles coming out of it, preventing implements from merely being raised to avoid the median.
According to Imperial County CEO, Ralph Cordova, the developer, Monterey Park and the bond company are both gone.
Marlene Best, Imperial city manager, said the City of Imperial is willing to show their good faith and pay for the now needed traffic study, which is the next step to getting the island mitigated.
Ryan Kelley suggested that since the island is shared in part by the County and Imperial perhaps the county could pick up half of the tab at $5,000. The rest of the board concurred.
LInsey Dale, Farm Bureau, spoke reminding the board that with summer over, the agricultural activity will be picking up again and the median on Austin is a liability and danger to the traveling public and very unsafe.
“I have several members ready to level the island if given the green light,” Dale told the board.
Cordova said the alternatives are expensive and many impractical due to the IID poles, telephone poles and the canal, “but the County remains committed to searching for answers.”