Projects that put wheels in motion

Tulare County Association of Governments awards local road projects for their innovation, economic development, sustainability and safety improvements

By Reggie Ellis

TULARE COUNTY – Road projects are always at the top of everyone’s mind when it comes to spending tax dollars, but the scale and cost of the project does not always tell the story of its impact on a community. 

The Tulare County Association of Governments, the county’s transportation authority, takes time at the beginning of each year to recognize transportation projects that solve safety, shipping and traffic problems as well as those that improve air quality and quality of life. TCAG, and representatives from its member agencies, gathered on Jan. 23 at the Edison Energy Education Center in Tulare to celebrate this year Local Motion award winners. 

The most Outstanding Road Project was awarded to three agencies in the city of Visalia, city of Porterville and CalTrans. The most notable project was the Goshen Avenue/Demaree Street Intersection Improvement Project in Visalia. The project not only widened the intersection but also replaced existing traffic signals, upgraded the railroad tracks and equipment, removed/replaced old county road sections, modified the median, upgraded pedestrian accessibility, and added new signs and striping.

The largest project in scope was the Plano Street Rehabilitation Project in Porterville. The multi-phase project improved Plano Street from Henderson Avenue to Vandalia Avenue and included the repair and/or replacement of distressed asphalt, the replacement of concrete curb ramps for access compliance, the micro-surfacing and restriping of Plano Street within the project boundaries, and the replacement of the 12-inch water main between Date Avenue and Vandalia Avenue.

Porterville also benefitted from the widening of Highway 190 from Highway 99 to Postmile 8.0 which will not only promote the transportation of goods to and from the city but also increase pedestrian safety. 

The most Outstanding Transit Project was awarded to a single project that improved transit services or access to transit in the region. The award went to the County of Tulare for its Transit Operations Maintenance Facility (TOMF) strategically located halfway between Highway 198 and Highway 137 and near the midpoint between Highway 99 and Highway 65. 

New at this year’s luncheon was the Outstanding Transportation Beautification Project. The first-year award went to the city of Dinuba for its Green Median Project and the city of Porterville for its Tule River Native Plant Demonstration Gardens Project. 

Porterville partnered with the Tule River Parkway Association, California Native Plant Society and U.S. Fish and Wildlife to build demonstration pollinator gardens along the Tule River Parkway west of the Jaye Street Bridge. Volunteers undertook many tasks including mowing, weeding, raking, trimming dead branches, trimming low hanging branches and trunk sprouts, moving vegetative waste into piles, picking up trash and debris, planting, watering, removing sick trees, and adding irrigation systems to each garden area.

Three individual awards were given out: Outstanding Public Employee, Outstanding Elected Official and Outstanding Transportation Advocate. The Outstanding Transportation Advocate is given to a Tulare County resident who advocates for the growth and improvement of the transportation system in Tulare County for all types of projects. The first-year award went to Steve Walker with the Porterville Police Department who has worked with TCAG on bike and pedestrian safety for several years.

Outstanding Public Employee is awarded to a public employee who has shown dedication and leadership in the areas of transportation, planning and/or project management. The award went to Nick Bartsch, a senior project manager for the city of Tulare. In his capacity overseeing construction management for the last 13 years, Bartsch has helped Tulare has successfully complete four Measure R Regional Projects totaling more than $82 million. 

Other award included:

-Social Service Transportation Provider – The LOOP Bus program, operated by the Tulare County Area Transit, was created by the Tulare County Gang Prevention Task Force.

-Economic Development – The Cartmill Avenue Improvement Project constructed a new divided arterial roadway, with three lanes eastbound and two lanes westbound from Akers Avenue (adjacent to SR 99 interchange) on the west to Mooney Boulevard (Highway 63) on the east. .

-Bike or Pedestrian Project – These projects were awarded to four cities and the county, which completed several projects that improved walkability, connectivity, and/or access for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

-Innovative and Sustainable Transportation – This was awarded to two projects that enhanced communities and quality of life through smart growth principles. City of Lindsay’s Hermosa Street/Westwood Avenue Roundabout provided a safe route across the intersection connecting Jefferson Elementary School, Olivewood, Grove and Lindsay apartment complexes and the Olivewood Shopping Center. In addition to slowing down traffic and narrowing the distance for pedestrians, the roundabout also reduced vehicle emissions by eliminating the need for cars to idle while stopped.  County of Tulare launched a new, bilingual website, ridetcat.org, that implemented a new automated trip planner for routes on its Tulare County Area Transit (TCaT) bus. The fixed-route service includes four intercity routes and five local circulator routes, as well as Dial-A-Ride serving 18 unincorporated communities, as well as the City of Lindsay and certain areas and neighborhoods outlying other cities.

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