Hope springs eternal when it comes to street projects. But it’s perseverance that delivers results.
That’s the message from Steve Brandau at the June 28 Fresno City Council meeting.
Brandau is the District 2 council member. His neck of the woods is Northwest Fresno. Brandau spends a major portion of his working day trying to speed along improvements to the street system connecting the West of Highway 99 and East of Highway 99 neighborhoods.
We all know the current system is a mess. The reasons are many. But the council last month took two steps toward fixing some of the problems.
The first step involves the proposed Veterans Boulevard project. The city has about $90 million in local funding commitments, but needs another $45 million to pay the full tab.
The council on June 28 gave Public Works the green light to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a $23 million grant. The federal program is called Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD.
Of course, $23 million is only about half of what City Hall ultimately needs. But, says a staff report, $23 million would be enough to “fund a portion of Phases Three and Four of the Veterans Boulevard project. Phase Three of the project will construct an interchange at State Route 99 and grade separation over the realigned Golden State Boulevard. Phase Four will extend Veterans Boulevard to connections with Herndon Avenue to the north and Shaw Avenue to the south.”
I take that to mean: Give us $23 million, add it to our existing $90 million, and we guarantee we’ll find that remaining $22 million somewhere.
The request for council approval of the application gave Brandau a chance to update the public on the Veterans Boulevard saga.
“I do want anybody who has been tracking Veterans Boulevard to know that we took another trip to Washington, D.C. a couple of months ago.”
Brandau said from the dais.
“At that point we were applying for what is called the INFRA grant – it’s a different program than the BUILD. We were not awarded that. But they informed us that this BUILD approach might be something that we should take advantage of. So, now we’re going to shift from the INFRA to the BUILD.
“We were also not awarded (grant funds) by the State of California. But I want the citizens of the City of Fresno to know that we are plugging away. We are doing our best to secure funding for Veterans Boulevard from the feds or the State of California. This motion today will set up the next grant application. I’m happy to make a motion to approve.”
Council President Esmeralda Soria made the second. Much of her District 1, like Brandau’s District 2, is located west of 99.
The motion carried 7-0.
Next up was a District 2 street project that’s going to get done ASAP – the widening of a portion of Herndon Avenue.
Public Works’ pitch to the council was simple: Award a contract of $845,722 to Dave Christian Construction Co. of Fresno to widen westbound Herndon between Brawley and Blythe avenues from two lanes to three lanes.
Public Works Assistant Director Randall Morrison told the council that the eastbound portion has already been widened to three lanes. Morrison said Christian Construction also will build a portion of a planned multi-purpose trail on the north side of Herndon.
The money comes from a federal grant and local Measure C funds.
Here, again, the spotlight was on Brandau.
“This is a section of Herndon where Herndon is three lanes the whole way, (then) it’s been reduced to two. It probably shouldn’t have been done like this, in the distant past. Even yesterday, Council President Soria and I talked with an individual in her district who has complained about streets that are constricted at certain points. It really creates traffic congestion, and some in our community say that it leads to accidents.
“Since I’ve been a council member, going on six years now, when I first became a council member there’s a guy named Charles that lived in that district. And he’s come to me a couple of times and said, ‘Steve, you’ve got to do something about the constriction.’ I kept telling him, ‘Charles, it’s in the list of priorities, it’s working its way to the top.’ So, I’m very happy today to say that I’m going to make a motion to approve the widening of Herndon in this final little constricted area. This one’s for Charles – I make a motion to approve.”
Clint Olivier made the second. The vote was 7-0.
Soria, like Brandau, has long been concerned about transportation infrastructure woes in parts of Fresno.
Soria said in conclusion: “Go, Charles.”