Transit Center pulls up City’s downtown
More than 50,000 people come through Woodlake every year on a bus from other communities. Some are commuting to work. Others are trying to get to college. And more are just trying to find basic transportation they can afford. Whatever the reason, the City of Woodlake now has a transit center to better accommodate those riders as they stop in town.
On Monday, Oct. 21 the City of Woodlake held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Whitney Transit Center at 201 E. Lakeview St. in Woodlake. The ribbon cutting was attended by four of the five Woodlake City Councilmembers, District 4 Supervisor and TCAG Chair Steven Worthley, Exeter City Councilman Jack Allwardt, Director of TCAT Dan Fox, TCAG Executive Executive Director Ted Smalley, Woodlake Unified Superintendent Dru Sorensen and representatives from Quad Knopf Engineering, Caltrans and the City of Woodlake.
Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza said
“The Whitney family has been a huge supporter of Woodlake and this project could not have been possible without his help,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said the 1-acre parcel for the project belonged to Leonard Whitney, who “gave the City quite a deal” to help them come in under budget. Whitney, the longtime owner of Nichols Payless in Woodlake and the First Choice Foods shopping complex, said he was glad to see the area be put to good use for the community.
“It’s much more than I thought it would be,” Whitney said. “They say 50,000 people already come through here. With something this nice, I expect that number will increase. It’s a great project for this town.”
Woodlake City Manager Ramon Lara said the transit center creates a transportation hub for the Tulare County Areat Transit (TCAT). The county run TCAT has eight fixed routes including Route 30 which runs between Visalia, Ivanhoe, Woodlake and Three Rivers. Lara said nearly 15,000 riders last year were students commuting to and from COS.
“This is a great project for Woodlake,” Lara said. “It helps Woodlake students continue their education, seniors on a fixed income get to and from appointments and real, regional transit hub for Tulare County. This is also a great infill project for a patch of dirt that has been nothing but weeds for many years.”
Lara said the City Council approved the project in August 2012. The $925,000 project was funded through a combination of statewide transportation bond and a countywide transportation sales tax measure. Most of the project, $595,000, was funded through Measure R, the half cent transportation sales tax approved by Tulare County voters in 2008. Lara said Woodlake receives $50,000 per year in Measure R funds for public transportation allocated through the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG). He said the City has banked six years of funds and will request an advance for five more years of Measure R funding.
Supervisor Worthley thanked the voters of Tulare County for passing Measure R which has provided funding for many public transportation projects like the transit center.
“I want to thank the taxpayers of Tulare County for Measure R. Other counties have tried to pass similar measures and failed,” Worthley said. “Because city’s are allowed to take multiple year allotments at one time they can move foreward with projects now while construction is extremely inexpensive. We really get more bang for our buck with these projects, which allows us to do even more with the money.”
Mayor Mendoza said the project is also a reinvestment in the City’s downtown. Not only will it provide a comfortable place for people to wait for their bus during the day, but also a safe, well lit area to wait for a bus at night. Josh Searcy, Superintendent for Forcum/Mackey Construction, Inc., said bright lights are already installed throughout the project and will add to the wide casting light from six street lights, both along the street next to the project and within the footprint of the transit center.
“I am also proud to be part of a project to beautify downtown,” Mendoza said. “It is an added benefit to this project.”
Mendoza said the project will tie in with the upcoming improvements to Valencia Boulevard. The Downtown Improvement Project is expected to go out to bid next month. The project will add sidewalks (stamped concrete, colored, stone or brick), decorative benches and street lighting, bulb outs each intersection and plant new trees along Valencia Boulevard from Naranjo to Lakeview and on Lakeview from Valencia to Magnolia. Approved by the City Council in 2011, phase 1 of the $1.5 million project is also being funded through a combination of Caltrans’ Transportation Enhancement Act money, Measure R and local funds.
The City Council also increased its Measure R allotment to an additional $25,000 for environmental services on a proposed roundabout at Naranjo and Valencia boulevards. The $1.4 million roundabout is being funded through a combination of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, Measure R and city funds. Approved by the City Council in February 2012, Lara said the roundabout is still in the design phase and is anywhere from eight to 10 months away from being bid for construction.
“Our city is going through a Renaissance period,” Mendoza said. “The older generation is advising the younger generation to make things happen. These are not projects for the City Council, these are projects for you, the residents. They start by making a simple statement to city employees, ‘I have an idea for a project to fill a need in town.’”