City begins work to widen, BRIGHTEN Visalia Rd.
By Reggie Ellis
farmersville – It is impossible to get around Farmersville on foot without crossing Visalia Road. The city’s main east-west arterial bisects the community as a dangerous river of traffic where too many residents try to navigate across the current in the middle of the night. Poor lighting, one stop light, jaywalkers and speeders all contribute to making Visalia Road a dangerous place for pedestrians. In recent years, people trying to cross the street after dark has resulted in one death and two more people being seriously injured.
Police Chief Mario Krstic recently told the council he would have the school resource officer work on speaking to children about using clearly marked crosswalks and that the police department would work on slowing motorists down. But at least the problem of poor lighting will be permanently fixed in the next year.
City manager John Jansons said the number of street lights along Visalia Road will double as part of a project to widen Visalia Road. The primary purpose of the project is to widen Visalia Road to six lanes from one end of the city (Virginia Avenue) to the other (Brundage Avenue). The project also includes a landscaped median that will beautify the thoroughfare from Rose Avenue east to Brundage Avenue and from Ventura Avenue west to Virginia Avenue. But more importantly to residents, that median will include 27 new Marbelite-style street light poles and seven street lights to existing power poles.
“This should light up the entire road through town,” Jansons said. “These lights in the median will stretch out over both directions of traffic.”
One of the street lights has already been installed at the corner of Brundage. Jansons said Mayor Paul Boyer, who lives on the street, said the new street light really lit up the intersection. All of the new lighting are LED fixtures, which are brighter and more energy efficient. The City will also replace 25 existing fixtures high-pressure sodium vapor fixtures with LED fixtures. Street lights will be installed or converted to LED on both sides of the street for the entire corridor.
“Only the lights installed with the traffic signal at Farmersville Boulevard will remain as-is,” Jansons said.
The issue of lighting was brought up to the city council again in December after a pedestrian was killed on Dec. 11. A woman headed to church attempted to cross the road outside of a crosswalk. A driver swerved to avoid the woman, lost control of his vehicle and hit and killed a pedestrian on the sidewalk before striking a power pole.
We need more lighting,” said newly elected council member Rosa Vasquez at the Dec. 12 council meeting. “I know when I drive in town at night, there are times I might not see something because of the lack of lighting.”
The project also includes curb gutter and sidewalks along the southern edge of Visalia Road between Rose and Brundage and the northern edge of the road between Ventura and Virginia avenues. Fire hydrants as well as water and sewer links will be added along both of those sections as well to be ready for future growth along the city’s main commuter corridor.
The $5.6 million project will be completely funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase used for transportation projects countywide, as part of a regional project to widen Avenue 280, better known as Caldwell and Visalia Road depending on which city you live in, from Highway 99 to the city of Exeter. In 2003, the Tulare County Association of Governments proposed widening the road to create a six-lane east-west expressway crossing the county. The project is slated for completion by 2031.
Currently the City of Exeter is struggling to gather the requisite amount of land to complete their portion of the widening project.