Exeter Council decides to break Visalia Road widening project into 2 phases due to funding shortfalls

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By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

EXETER – Drivers traveling down Visalia Road have probably noticed the potholes and rivets that jar their car. Wet winters and hot summers have beaten down on the pavement for a handful of years making the road even worse. And as of last Tuesday, Oct. 24 the Exeter City Council has decided to delay part of the project intended to fix and widen the road.

The City has been aware for quite some time that Visalia Road has been eroding, but it was strategically deciding not to invest in repairs because of the pending Measure R funded Road 280 widening project. For Exeter the portion of Visalia Road affected runs from Elberta at the end of the city limit to Orange.

Projected costs for the widening by the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG), were $4.9 million. Now they are anticipating construction costs to run around $6.3 million. Including construction management costs, city engineer Lisa Wallis-Dutra says that the total cost would be just shy of $7 million. Wallis-Dutra said that TCAG could finish the plans and send the project out to bid, but it might take two or three years before the requisite funding would be available to fulfill the entire project. The other option was to segment the project to fit in the budget.

Exeter public works director Daymon Qualls advised the Council to segment the project simply due to the fact that at least part of the road would be repaired in the course of widening it.

“Elberta and Orange are in need of some pretty substantial repair and maintenance. We’ve been deferring that project in anticipation of the road widening and we can’t defer that project anymore,” Qualls said. “We either move the project forward now or we’ll have to budget to make those repairs.”

The segmented plan takes repairs from Elberta through the intersection of Belmont. The last segment between Belmont and Orange will have to wait until more funding is available. And it appears as if the City will have to invest in some repairs on that side of the road anyways as Councilman Gordon Gerdes highlighted the condition of the road past the Belmont intersection.

“Traveling east from Belmont to Orange is a mess. There needs to be something done with that road way,” Gerdes said.

Mayor Teresa Boyce noted that segmenting the project is probably best because of the condition of the road way between Elberta and Belmont. She noted the flooding issues in front of Burger King.

Wallis-Dutra said that the cost to do the project in two phases does increase the total, although she did not note to the council by how much.

In other news
The Council also held its fourth public hearing over district elections. The public was welcome to weigh in on the composition of the maps and district boundary lines. Nobody spoke during the public comment portion of the public hearing. Exeter City Council indicated their consensus over the “Yellow Map” that carves downtown into four equal parts for four districts. The Council will formally vote over the preferred map at the next city council meeting on Nov. 14.

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