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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

One block, and so many things wrong

CHICO — During the life of this column, we have had some opportunities to see some remarkably bad pavement in Chico. Some spots might surprise you, like Petersen Memorial Drive in Bidwell Park; such an unlikely place to imagine a bumpy drive.

Others, such as East Avenue in the area of Highway 99, were rough for so long that drivers probably stopped noticing them. Driving over a poor road for that many years becomes a common occurrence a person stops noticing, much like the sun rising in the east.

Nothing prepared us for the deplorable condition of North Cedar Street, however, though El Paso Way was a “known quantity” of bad — indeed, it was the inspiration for this column. Workers have repaved that sorry stretch of pavement, and it is now among Chico’s best and freshest.

Many examples of bad streets remain in the “to-do” list and we’ll highlight all of them at some point. For this week, though, you’re going to learn about a street that’s part of downtown Chico, yet isolated enough that it carries relatively little traffic.

That is good news for motorists and bicyclists, because we’re talking about one MEAN street — Wall Street, between East Fifth and East Sixth streets. If you were as mean to your kids or your pets as this street is toward the people who drive on it, you might be in jail. At the very least, your friends would probably stop associating with you.

This small section of Wall Street — truncated by the Municipal Center on the north and the Chico Rotary Plaza, at the Chico Boys and Girls Club, on the south — carries a real wallop. It has some professional offices from end to end on the east side, and a title company, an entrance/exit to the Senator Theater parking lot and a corner vacant building on the west side. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Look at the pavement, though, and you’ll find a different story — for there are craters, cracks and potholes so severe, particularly as you get closer to Sixth Street, you’ll likely wonder how an area so close to the seat of city government could become this awful.

This area where Wall Street meets East Sixth Street, looking south near the Boys and Girls Club, is in shabby condition in Chico, California on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. (Ed Booth/Enterprise-Record)
This area where Wall Street meets East Sixth Street, looking south near the Boys and Girls Club, is in shabby condition in Chico, California on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. (Ed Booth/Enterprise-Record)

Things aren’t quite as bad on Sixth Street between Wall and Flume streets, but that one still qualifies as a mean street itself.

There’s no point in anyone trying to patch these inconsistencies in Wall Street’s asphalt; only a repaving job will do. That is to say, crews will need to dig up the pavement all the way to the roadbed and start from scratch.

You’ve undoubtedly heard that “good things come in small packages.” Well, if by “good,” you’re thinking about how much bad pavement can fit in 330 feet — the length of this highlighted section of Wall Street — you’re going to feel like a kid waking up to a birthday present. However, your car or bicycle will likely disagree and thank you for not traveling on this stretch.

Hitting the Wall

Wall Street is one of Chico’s original streets, part of the grid John Bidwell laid out in 1860. Just a block east of Main Street, it was mostly commercial at its northern end and became much more residential as it moved south.

City of Chico officials eliminated the “through” section between Fourth and Fifth streets, in preparation for the construction on the Municipal Center, which opened in 1995. Residences on the east side of the street, as well as the rest of that block, were removed to create a parking lot.

“Our Hands,” a terazzo sculpture Donna Billick created in 2000, sits smack in the middle of what used to be the drivable portion of Wall Street. At the other end is an arch reading “Fred Davis Municipal Center,” honoring the man who served as city manager from 1959 until his retirement in 1992.

Pass our highlighted section of roadway moving south, and at Sixth Street, you’ll come upon another decommissioned part of Wall Street — at Chico Rotary Plaza. It was a project in the early 2000s that eliminated a superfluous roadway to create a safe, parklike area to join portions of the Chico Boys and Girls Club that would otherwise require people to cross an active street to utilize.

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