Costa Mesa officials hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for what's being called the largest single street-improvement project in city history.
Two lanes of Paularino Avenue between Red Hill and Airway avenues — within earshot of the jet engines at John Wayne Airport — were closed off for the small ceremony, which included a few short remarks, golden shovels and white hard hats.
It recognized the beginning of the Airport Area Improvement Project, whose development area is bounded by the 55 Freeway to the west, Airway Avenue to the east, the Masters Circle to the south, and Airport Loop Drive to the north. The work began last week and is expected to conclude in March.
The estimated $6.2-million project will resurface about 2.6 million square feet of streets, as well as repair sidewalks, driveways and gutters.
Measure M money, gasoline tax revenue and grants are funding the effort. Measure M is a voter-approved, half-cent sales tax intended to fund Orange County transportation projects.
"As the economy has come back slightly, we're putting more and more money into infrastructure," said city CEO Tom Hatch, who called the project "good government work" that involves a lot of coordination.
"We need it," Hatch said. "We need it throughout the community."
The project is a "big-ticket item" for a key business district of the city, and it's been "a long time coming," said Ernesto Munoz, the city's public services director.
"This is a massive project by any measure for any city," he said.
About 40,000 tons of asphalt will be laid in that area.
"That's exciting, and it's exciting to me as an engineer," Munoz said.
The project is part of about $19.8-million worth of street improvements done within the past three years, Munoz said.
Mayor Jim Righeimer said that airport area's streets haven't been refurbished in 20 years, and other neighborhood streets, until recently, had not been improved in 30 years.
With the completion of the Airport Area Improvement Project and other work done over the past three years, 25% of all of the city's streets will have been worked on, the mayor said.
"That's never been done in this city before," he said, "and I would say it's never been done in any other city in Orange County. That's a big accomplishment for this staff, Ernesto and the vision that they have here."