Tulare considers shifting gears on truck routes

Drivers navigate the busy HWY 99 interchange of Paige Avenue and Blackstone Street in Tulare.(Kenny Goodman)

Councilman Jose Sigala calls for review of Tulare’s truck routes to address increased traffic, pollution in residential areas

TULARE – Increasing truck traffic through residential neighborhoods has led one Tulare councilman to question whether the routes can be changed.

Councilman Jose Sigala recently asked staff to examine the truck routes in an effort to better understand where trucks run in the city. The routes have not been examined since 1995. At issue for Sigala are two routes that are adding congestion and pollution to residential neighborhoods in his district. 

“I want to address truck traffic that runs particularly through my council district,” Sigala said at the May 7 council meeting. Sigalia specifically called attention to the truck route running from Tulare Drive to West Prosperity Avenue on North West Street.

The population of Tulare has rapidly grown since the last time the truck routes were evaluated in 1995. The U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the population of Tulare was 33,200 then, but by 2020 – the date of the most recent census – the population had swelled to 69,255.

Projections based on the data indicate the population in 2024 is estimated to be above 72,000 residents. The population explosion means that routes that were outside of populated areas in the 1990s now run through dense, residential neighborhoods.

Sigala pointed out that there are no shipping facilities along the route of Tulare Drive to West Prosperity Avenue. He noted there are other truck routes that could be used that would keep truck traffic out of the residential area, but any effort to make changes to trucking routes in Tulare is in its infancy.

“I have no problem bringing in stakeholders like the dairy industry, ag folks, but for me, the reasoning was trying to reduce unnecessary pollution in the neighborhoods,” Sigala said in an interview with The Sun-Gazette. “There are already corridors that go east and west.”

Sigala added that this is also an opportunity for other council members to look at truck routes in their districts to identify opportunities to modify truck routes to limit pollution and traffic.

A key to the examination for Sigala is the environmental impact that trucking has on the environment. Among the information that staff shared is that any change to the truck routes will require a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This process could ultimately derail any effort as it can add significant cost to a project.

“When CEQA came up, that was the first thing in my mind,” Sigala said. “I’ve worked in the State Legislature, I’ve worked in local government, and CEQA can be a burdensome thing; but toward the end of that conversation, staff kind of took a step back from it being such an obstacle.”

Truck routes are specifically selected roads that meet specific requirements for strength and accessibility for trucks. Ordinances allow the city council to determine the routes, and once that’s taken care of, the chief of police and the city engineer are responsible for installing signage. The Tulare Police Department is responsible for enforcing rules requiring trucks to remain on trucking routes.

At the council meeting, Tulare Police Chief Fred Ynclav told the council that he was not aware of serious violations happening in the city. He also mentioned that any stop made would probably not result in a citation. Tulare’s ordinance is written in a way so trucks are permitted to deviate from the routes when going to or from shipping locations.

At the same meeting, a group of residents from Metheny Tract, which lies outside city limits, came in to complain about a construction project.They said the construction company was using residential neighborhoods to enter and exit the project when there was an alternate entrance that would have taken the trucks away from the residential areas.

“They do have issues, they do have truck traffic, and there were construction trucks going through their neighborhood,” Sigala said. “So that got stopped. I went out and looked at the situation and there were trucks coming through the residential neighborhood. Our city manager informed the council that has stopped. It’s a perfect example of how coming to council, expressing your concern, can make a difference and something can come out of it.”

At the city council meeting, the council members asked staff to continue looking into the idea of modifying, eliminating or changing truck routes to reduce pollution and help with traffic congestion, but no future hearing has yet been scheduled.

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