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Council OKs funding to connect Park Boulevard, Harbor Drive

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SAN DIEGO — A long-awaited plan to connect Park Boulevard with Harbor Drive got a boost Monday afternoon when the San Diego City Council unanimously directed new funding toward the project.

The thoroughfare stops next to Petco Park, where it intersects with Tony Gwynn Drive. A half-dozen railroad and trolley tracks currently sit between the road’s terminus and Harbor Drive.

The road extension was given its first go-ahead by city officials 14 years ago, when the Padres ballpark was being planned. The plan was to open up the last segment of Park Boulevard to make up for closing the nearby Eighth Avenue crossing.

Construction was delayed, however, by a legal challenge from the California Public Utilities Commission that took three years to resolve, a shift in city priorities to a pedestrian overcrossing that was built nearby, and the state’s abolishment of redevelopment, according to a report from Civic San Diego, which assists the city with certain development projects.

The action will be welcome news to downtown residents and visitors, said Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents the area.

“I think every council member here has occasion to be at the convention center or one of the bayfront hotels, and you know that it gets rather congested — First Avenue, Fifth Avenue,” Gloria said. “This will be a key connector north, and out of downtown to the freeways.”

The Civic San Diego report said the nearly $14 million project, which will include pedestrian enhancements, will be largely covered by excess proceeds from leftover redevelopment bonds that recently became available.

While the state did away with the redevelopment process, projects in the pipeline were allowed to proceed, though many have been delayed.

The plan also calls for 100 feet of the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade to be shifted to make way for a pedestrian crossing. Additional recognition of the civil rights leader would be installed as part of the project, Civic San Diego said.

Construction could start early next year and be finished by October 2018, according to the agency’s timeline.

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