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CalTrans brakes Hwy 65 realignment

CalTrans brakes Hwy 65 realignment

By Reggie Ellis

@Reggie_SGN

lindsay – Plans to move Highway 65 away from the City of Lindsay have come to a screeching halt.

Last month, CalTrans announced that it had “withdrawn from further consideration” its 2012 plan to realign Highway 65 between Exeter and Lindsay. Project Manager Judy Aguilar-Luna said the project was being discontinued for a lack of funding through the State Transportation Improvement Program. Instead Aguilar-Luna said Caltrans will begin studying “essential improvements” along the route. She said these will most likely be smaller projects that can be completed one at a time, such as improving the intersection of Highway 245 and Highway 198 near Exeter or changes to the intersections of Hermosa Street and Oak Avenue along Highway 65 in Lindsay.

“We will be doing the study to determine what the needs for improvement area and then present those potential projects to the public for review,” she said.

The decision to stop the project is good news for Lindsay businesses that front the current alignment of Highway 65. Caltrans’ initial plan proposed realigning Highway 65 more closely with Spruce Road (Road 204) and away from its current route along Road 196 (Kaweah204) and away from its current route along Road 196 (Kaweah Avenue through Exeter). As part of the realignment, the current highway would have become a frontage road and the new highway would have been moved farther west away from the City and businesses such as AM-PM Mini-mart, Burger King, Country Waffle, Super 8 Motel, Culligan Water, Dealer’s Choice Auto Dealership and even Mt. Whitney Mini Storage.

The City of Lindsay became the first public agency to formally oppose the Highway 65 plan when the City Council approved a letter at its July 9 meeting over concerns for its highway-adjacent businesses. In the letter, then City Planner Bill Zigler stated the “awkwardly configured frontage road” would provide little economic help to the businesses north of the intersection of Hermosa.

The city countered the plan by proposing a Lindsay exit at Lindmore. The exit would have created a one-way northbound frontage road along the current highway where it splits into the new alignment and curves west away from the city. This would have allowed vehicles to access the affected businesses. North of Hermosa Street, the frontage road would became two lanes and connect to the Oak Avenue extension, which was already part of initial project. It would have also created new opportunities for the City to develop commercial property that would have faced the new highway. And because most of the land running along the west side of the current highway already falls within Lindsay’s urban develop boundaries, the new highway frontage would have been within the city’s sphere of influence.

The city later withdrew its own proposal after Caltrans said it would have to condemn all of the properties (both homes and businesses such as the 76 Station) on the west side of the freeway because Freemont Drive would have created a dead-end road that exceeded the maximum length set by the State. Transforming the current highway into a one-way, northbound “Lindsay Exit” would have required making Fremont Drive a cul-de-sac at the southern end near Lindmore.

Aguilar-Luna said no timetable has been set to present the three-phase plan to make improvements along the route. Once completed, Caltrans will circulate a new draft environmental document for the replacement project. The draft document will be available for review at an open forum public hearing and public notice will provided for new comments.

Property owners with questions should contact Project Manager Judy Aguilar-Luna by calling 559-243-3457 or emailing judy.aguilar@dot.ca.gov or Senior Environmental Planner Richard Putler at 559-445-5286 or Richard.putler@dot.ca.gov.

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