By Reggie Ellis
tulare county – Road projects are a necessity of modern society and the modern economy. They are often considered routine maintenance, overdue repairs and commonplace community projects that are always chasing the progress that has already passed them by. But in some cases, road projects not only improve residents’ daily commutes but also improve their quality of life.
Those are the types of innovative projects that were recognized on Jan. 26 during the Tulare County Association of Governments’ (TCAG) 6th annual Local Motion Awards.
The annual event that recognizes the projects, citizens, public officials and plans that have contributed to the improvement of planning and the transportation system in in Tulare County. The following projects were honored in various categories at the Thursday Luncheon held at the Visalia Convention Center:
Noble Avenue Roundabout at SR 198 / Eastbound Ramp and Farmersville Blvd, City of Farmersville
It’s difficult to get visitors and tourists to stop in your city when the exit off the highway is the most dangerous intersection in town. That all changed last fall with the completion of Tulare County’s only dual roundabouts. City Manager John Jansons said the project not only provides access to an already budding highway commercial corridor along Noble Avenue but paves the way for Farmersville’s plans for future commercial development on the north side of the city on Farmersville Boulevard. Jansons said the improvements, combined with a plan to widen the city’s main street from roundabouts south to Walnut, will provide the infrastructure needed to attract a major retail center on the east side of Farmersville Boulevard and a planned industrial park on the west side of the boulevard. For years, Farmersville has also hoped to attract an overflow hotel for tourists visiting Sequoia National Park. The project also creates better farm to market access for Farmersville’s ag related businesses and trucking on Highway 198 to Highway 99.
By using two roundabouts, the total cost of improving the interchange of Highway 198, Noble Avenue and Farmersville Boulevard was reduced from $30 million to about $10 million. Most of the Farmersville Boulevard widening/Highway 198 interchange project was funded through Measure R funds, the half-cent sales tax measure approved by voters in 2006 to repair roads and fund transportation projects throughout Tulare County. Measure R is managed by TCAG, which serves as the transit authority for Tulare County. About $3.5 million in grants from Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) and Highway Safety improvement programs.
Innovative and Sustainable Transportation Projects
Woodlake Roundabout Project, City of Woodlake
The City of Woodlake turned the intersection of two state highways into a grand entrance into its downtown with its roundabout project. The $3.3 million project was primarily funded by $2.9 million from CMAQ to reduce pollution by eliminating cars idling at the intersection. But it also created a more walkable downtown by connecting sidewalks a block in every direction, improved the storm drainage in downtown to prevent flooding and identified dilapidated pipes in the city’s water and sewer system and provided an opportunity to fix those with change orders that were covered by Measure R funds as well as water and sewer funds totaling about $500,000. Woodlake City Manager Ramon Lara said the project was the cornerstone to several other projects to improve downtown including a downtown plaza, community center, downtown beautification project and historical museum. Lara said it was unique because it is the only roundabout to be located at the entrance to a downtown in the middle of a town’s Main Street and incorporated successful elements from other roundabout projects, such as using drought tolerant plants for landscaping.
Parkside Avenue Improvement Project, City of Lindsay
When children and families walk or ride their bikes to the park they should be more concerned with enjoying life than losing it to a driver. When Lindsay began renovating its City Park in 2011 it set out to create a safer path for both pedestrians and bicyclists along Parkside Avenue along the park. The Parkside Improvement Project eliminated a dangerous intersection at Parkside and Alameda, removed a hedge that blocked the park from patrolling officers at night, added a fence to protect those in the park from cars and bike lanes to protect bicyclists outside of the park from cars. The cost of the project was $110,102, which came in under budget. The project was funded primarily through Measure R and a portion of a $500,000 grant from the California Parks & Recreation Department created to provide funding for projects in economically disadvantaged areas after voters approved Proposition 12 in 2000.
Outstanding Road Projects
Tooleville Safe Routes to School Project, County of Tulare
Catching a school bus in the morning is one of the safest ways that students get from home to school. But waiting for the bus on the dirt shoulder of a high-speed country road can be a little more dangerous, or at least intimidating. That was the case in Tooleville, a rural hamlet consisting of two streets along Road 204 (Spruce Road) just east of Exeter. In order to make it safer for Tooleville students waiting for the school bus, the County of Tulare installed 765 feet of curb, gutter and sidewalk on the east side of Road 204 from Morgan Avenue to 250-feet north of Alfred Avenue. The project also included a concrete bus pullout that can accommodate up to two school buses. Both the sidewalk and pullout included a new drainage system to prevent flooding. The project cost a total of $414,000 and was funded through $379,000 from CalTrans’ Active Transportation Program and $35,000 in Measure R funds.
Three Visalia Projects Recognized
The City of Visalia was presented with three awards at the luncheon. The first was an Innovative and Sustainable Transportation Award for the Fiber-Optic Connectivity for Traffic Signal Interconnection. The backbone of the Intelligent Transportation System (TIS) Strategic Plan, the Fiber Optic Connectivity project consisted of installing 33,600 linear feet, connecting 15 existing traffic signals. The project provides an enhanced capacity for effective traffic management while providing room to grow.
Taking the award for Outstanding Road Project was the Visalia Parkway Culvert Crossing. The project included the design and construction of a new vehicle and pedestrian crossing over Packwood Creek. The Crossing project includes a Class 1 Trail, two Class II bike lanes and parking on both sides. The Visalia Parkway Culvert Crossing includes 660 feet of street widening that allows for a final striping configuration and has the City’s first implementation of new city standard LED street lights.
With a Voice Response System and connection to the Intelligent Transportation System, Visalia’s paratransit dispatch software implementation of “Easy Rides” was named the Social Services Transportation Provider award recipient. The voice response system provides ride-reminders, no-show notifications and sends passenger emergency messages. “Easy Rides” allows dispatchers to schedule trips based on vehicle geographical locations, appointment times, and better-coordinated standing reservations while scheduling trips for Paratransit and Dial-A-Ride.
Other winners included:
Bike/Pedestrian Projects – Santa Fe Trail Pedestrian Grade Separation, City of Tulare
Outstanding Elected Official – Virginia Gurrola, City of Porterville
Outstanding Public Employee – Gail Miller, Caltrans-District 6 Planning
Transit Project – Low Carbon Transit / Operations Program Project, County of Tulare
TCAG would like to thank the agencies who sponsored the Local Motion Awards Luncheon this year: TRC, Omni-Means, Quad Knopf, Tulare County Board of Supervisors, Conway Consulting Group, and Tulare County Resource Management Agency.