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Infrastructure Update: Veterans Boulevard & Shaw Avenue Widening

The Fresno County Transportation Authority met two weeks ago. The agenda included staff reports on various Measure C road projects. Two reports caught my eye.

They deal with ambitious projects at opposite ends of the Fresno-Clovis metropolitan area’s northern tier. The reports are brief, but deserve our notice.

The first is for Veterans Boulevard in Northwest Fresno. I’ve been skeptical about the boulevard’s chances of ever becoming a reality. That skepticism is born of repeatedly dashed hopes for full funding.

The report from FCTA’s Diana Darbandi and City of Fresno’s Fabiola Lopez suggests I’m simply too impatient.

The two write: “The Veterans Boulevard project will result in the construction of a six-lane arterial roadway from Shaw Avenue to Herndon Avenue in northwest Fresno, a freeway interchange at SR99, grade separations over the Union Pacific Railroad, High Speed Rail line and Golden State Boulevard, a multipurpose trail, and improvements to roadways surrounding the project.”

To put in in simpler terms, Veterans Boulevard is pivotal to turning “Forgotten Fresno” (neighborhoods west of 99 and north of Roeding Park) into full-fledged members of the community.

All it will take is money.

As the Darbandi/Lopez report makes clear, a lot of money has already been committed and a lot of work has already been done. The initial Measure C commitment was $29.56 million. The design and right-of-way phases of the project are completed.

Darbandi/Lopez write: “Future Measure C funds will mostly cover the construction project limits of Barstow Avenue to Bullard Avenue, specifically consisting of the Veterans Boulevard/State Route 99 interchange and connection to Golden State Boulevard and Veterans Boulevard with funding scheduled for FY 2019/2020.”

The Bullet Train project will spend $28 million to extend Bullard Avenue to Herndon and build the grade separation over the Union Pacific and High-Speed Rail lines.

City Hall has already awarded the construction contract for Phase 1 of the Bullard Extension: $4.7 million to American Paving. The estimated completion date is early spring of 2019, Darbandi/Lopez write.

Looking ahead, City Hall wants to start construction of Phase 4a – Shaw to Barstow – in FY 2019-2020. The money would come from local development fees ($3.55 million), Measure C ($1.02 million) and the SB 1 Local Partnership Program ($2.17 million). The SB 1 funds are still in the grant application stage.

Looking even farther into the future, all FVBs (Friends of Veterans Boulevard; my term) pray that Fresno receives the $9.1 million it wants from its federal BUILD grant application. BUILD stands for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development.

Darbandi/Lopez write: “If successful, BUILD grant will fund portions of construction for phase 3, SR99 Interchange and Grade Separation, and Phase 4b, Veterans connection – Riverside to Herndon.”

Darbandi/Lopez conclude with a bittersweet summation: “Design – 100% complete; Right of Way – 100% complete; Construction – 0% complete.”

The FCTA board last week also learned of progress on the Shaw Avenue widening project from DeWolf Avenue to McCall Avenue. We’re talking about a two-mile stretch of Shaw from the east edge of Clovis almost to Wild Water Adventure Park. Both McCall and DeWolf will be excellent connections to the Southeast Growth Area (SEGA) in Southeast Fresno. DeWolf is a good connection to Sanger.

In short, this project is another important step in the development of the transportation/logistics network to the east of Clovis and Fresno.

Darbandi and Ryan Burnett from the City of Clovis write: “The ultimate project will widen Shaw Ave. between DeWolf & McCall to a 6-lane divided expressway. The scope of the project includes construction of the center and outside travel lanes, utility work, traffic signals and street lights, median and general landscaping, sidewalk & drive approaches and a grade separated crossing. This project has a Measure C commitment of $16.8 million for design, right-of-way & construction phases.”

The environmental work is 95% done; design is 60% done; right-of-way acquisition is 10% done; construction has yet to be started.

The hope is to begin construction in May 2020 and have everything done in June 2021. That means, ideally, the ribbon cutting is a mere 30 months away.

Change to our fair metropolitan area never stops.

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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