The proposed work will expand the road from four to six lanes along a third 2-mile stretch of the 10-mile corridor. A 15-foot-wide median, 6-foot-wide shoulders for bicyclists and pedestrians, and driveway and drainage improvements are included in the work.
The work is part of a larger project that will expand the entire corridor in 2-mile sections as funding is available. The section through Bloomfield has been criticized by some business owners, residents and elected officials. That part has taken two years and still is not completed. The city had to pay for infrastructure improvments for water and sewer lines that passed under the road.
Transportation Department team representatives, engineers, and managers hope to allay many of the frustrations over the Bloomfield section. The medians and duration of the roadwork are popular targets.
"You'll see in three or so years they'll be ripping up those medians," said Ken Chipman. One of his accounting firms is located along the highway.
He admits that business owners were given opportunities to provide input and learn about the project, but those meetings were long before the full implications of the design and construction work were clear.
"Don't get me wrong: I love the widened road, but if I would have known the number of U-turns people were going to have to maneuver, I would have spoken up sooner," he said.
Construction would begin in early 2015 and last most of the year.
"This is a great opportunity for local residents and businesses to learn more about the next phase of the project and to provide input and feedback," said Patricia Wolff, the Transportation Department's public information officer.
David Quintana, a Transportation Department engineer, admitted the optics are not always good for major road improvement projects such as this one.
"Projects of this magnitude involve a lot of work and time and money," Quintana said. "Because of budgetary limitations, this project has been broken up into many phases to widen and enhance the highway.
"From the first public meeting to last day on site, we can be looking at nearly 20 years' work," he said.
The project costs $15 million for every 2 miles of road, Quintana said.
The work will require less time than in Bloomfield, Quintana said, because it does not have utility lines under the road.
Nonetheless, business owners have bristled at the notion that their input counts.
Fernando Reyes believes that the loss of one of his businesses and the slow business for his tortilleria along the highway cannot be solely hung on the struggling economy.
"The impact of the lengthy roadwork has nearly done me in," Reyes said. "I've been through this too many times - been to meetings, made phone calls. They're not going to do anything about the medians despite knowing they're wrong."
Despite the open house's focus on a portion of the highway away from where he lives, Bloomfield resident and horse breeder Roman Martinez will be attending.
"I'll bring up the issues with the medians and driveways because they ought to hear about it," Martinez said. "I will show up with my neighbors, too. My concern here is for the people in my community."
Eric Johnson, an environmental consultant for the roadwork, will also be at the open house to share plans and design options for the next phase. He hopes to see strong attendance today.
"We placed ads in the paper two weeks ago and another that ran yesterday, plus we twice mailed out notices to roughly 90 property owners to alert everybody to ensure strong turnout," he said.
Ed Cordova, a Wilson and Co. contracting engineer who has overseen the design of the roadwork, will be on hand to help residents and business owners identify their properties on aerial maps and to listen to concerns about how the highway's design has affected them.
"I am hoping a lot of the users of the road come talk with us," Cordova said. "Their input will help us better implement an effective design for the road expansion work ahead."
The open house will be held at McGee Park, in Room C of the convention center, between noon and 8 p.m.