Councilman Javier Alatorre voted against approving the project at Tuesday's RDA meeting because there was no specific information on how the city would cover the cost.
"When I was on the Planning Commission we made sure that developers would pay for the signalization and improvement of that intersection with impact fees. We've been talking about putting lights there for the past seven years. How much money have we collected?" he asked Public Works Director Mariano Martinez.
Martinez said the city has collected $1 million in impact fees; not enough to fund the project.
He said the city could have collected more if "this City Council" had not waived impact fees for the Border Patrol station and other developments.
Martinez told the RDA board the Federal Highway Administration recently rejected the city's plan to use available federal funds to fix the intersection because adding a lane to facilitate a new turn lane would bring too much traffic into the area.
The decision by the FHA led to the request the city's RDA fund the project, according to Martinez.
He said that if the board allocated the $1.2 million, "We could go to bid next week."
Councilman Gilbert Grijalva said, "If they can go to bid next week, we as a board need to stop dragging its feet on public safety."
He added, "We're getting more and more traffic. Pretty soon school will be starting up again. It's an accident waiting to happen."
The Meadows/Highway 98 intersection is located near Calexico High School.
Grijalva continued, "We should not be dictated to by a federal agency that doesn't live here. They come here and make a decision based on a computer printout and then leave. The less federal assistance we need the better off we are. We can do things three times faster than they can anyway."
Martinez told the board that the federal funds can be transferred to curbing and sidewalk projects for Andrade and Encinas avenues.
"We need to show the community that we're not concentrating on one area," Martinez said.
Councilman Frank Montoya, Mayor Pro Tem John Renison and Grijalva voted to allocate the money on the condition that city staffers look into alternative funding in addition to RDA money.
City Manager Richard Inman said the final cost and a proposed allocation of funds for the project will be presented to the board during the next council meeting.
Alatorre responded, "It doesn't seem logical, ‘Give me a million dollars and I'll see what we have.'"
Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached by calling 337-3419 or by writing him at firstname.lastname@example.org