By Nancy Vigran
Reporting for the Sun-Gazette
TULARE – Courting new business is something Tulare has been involved with for years. But the mayor and the rest of city council have now made it a priority. With that in mind, ground was broken last week for an improvement project along Cartmill Ave.
It’s a $10 million project, said Nick Bartsch, City project manager, which includes widening Cartmill to five of its six eventual lanes – three eastbound and two westbound – between Highway 99 and De La Vina St.
The long-term goal is to ease traffic congestion entering the City and to encourage development.
A Kingsburg contractor, Don Berry Construction, was awarded the job with the low bid following the bidding period. Included in the construction will be water, sewer, and electrical lines to be in place and ready for further potential growth in the area, Bartsch said.
When the new City Council was seated last December, and Jose Sigala appointed mayor, he said economic development and business growth were key priorities for him. He asked for a goal-setting session between Council and staff which occurred as a two-day event the end of January.
“Economic development is one of six top priorities,” he said.
Council chose to work on Cartmill because the City had spent approximately $40 million along with other agencies to develop the street’s interchange with Highway 99.
“It’s a new place for growth,” Sigala said, “but fixing Cartmill was one of the hiccups.”
There are currently new homes being built in that area of the city. And, Cartmill is a main fairway from the highway to get to Tulare Outlets, which already sees a lot of congestion during the holiday shopping season. The Cartmill project will alleviate that, he added.
Sigala will be attending the International Conference of Shopping Centers along with City and Chamber of Commerce staff to entice consideration of business for Tulare. Although, a popular hamburger eatery has already expressed interest, Sigala said, and some rezoning has taken place for allotment of a hotel or motel in that area.
Working the infrastructure into the project allots even more favor toward new business with it being “shovel ready,” he added.
Funding for the Cartmill Project comes from a variety of sources, Bartsch explained, including California’s Measure R funds, Highway Users Tax funds, SB1-gas tax funded Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation funds, and some City allocation for upfront Development Impact fees to be reimbursed by developers to the City as they purchase and build in the area.
Construction plans are to alleviate any potential traffic delays as much as possible during the year-long project. The actual construction will begin with the schedule developed by the contractor, probably in mid-April.