A complete rebuild of Artesia Boulevard through Long Beach took a big step Tuesday night when the City Council approved a $2.3 million contract for engineering design.

Three miles of Artesia Boulevard go through North Long Beach, running parallel to the 91 Freeway from Harbor Drive to Downey Avenue. It currently is a four-lane east-west "arterial," meaning it carries high volumes of through traffic as well as local drivers, with a wide median and a diverse mix of businesses.

Rebuilding the street has been a goal for Ninth District City Councilman Rex Richardson since before he took office in 2014. He said via email that Artesia's revival is key to Uptown's progress.

“This project is a long time in the making, since 2014 when I proposed the Gateway Cities Artesia Boulevard Master Plan to the Long Beach City Council," Richardson said. "Since then, we’re receive support from Metro, piloted temporary bike lanes, and hosted ‘Activate Uptown' open streets event with SCAG. And now, with additional funding from SCAG and MSRC we’re planning an additional open streets planning event this February to gather additional input in the planning of the project.”

The contract approved Tuesday is with GHD, Inc., of Long Beach. The $2.3 million is part of almost $16 million set aside for the Artesia Great Boulevard Project set aside from almost $16 million in grants from Proposition C and Measure R within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

This will be another "Complete Streets" project, including bicycle paths, better sidewalks, traffic signal improvements and more. A street rehabilitation and resurfacing is a goal, as are landscape and irrigation upgrades.

“Artesia Boulevard is an important corridor with great potential. It’s home to anchor institutions like Jordan High, Compton College, Fire Station 12, Uptown Commons, and more,” Richardson said. “The Artesia Great Boulevard project will invest over $17 million to transform the corridor into a safe, vibrant, and livable environment that enhances the pedestrian experience and sets the stage for greater economic activity.”

One major improvement on the street, elimination of the old Edgington oil and asphalt refinery operated by Paramount Petroleum on the eastern portion of the Long Beach stretch at Paramount Avenue, already has taken place. Work is underway on that parcel for a new distribution warehouse.

No timeline was set for completion of the engineering plans. Richardson said there would be more public meetings about the project and other developments in the area.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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