Visalia Rd. ready to widen but later than expected

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

EXETER – Initial spring to summer estimates for ground to break on Visalia Road improvements has been pushed back to late summer or early fall.

Exeter city manage Adam Ennis has been working to push timelines along on Visalia Road and Palm, and it is looking like bulldozers should start rolling up late summer or early fall. Ennis said the City is trying to account for delays caused by cold temperatures and rain before they decide on a contractor.

“One of the questions I’m asking consultants is what do we have to do and how long will that take,” Ennis said.

At least citizens can look forward to two streets being repaved instead of just the busiest one. The City says they are going to work simultaneously on the Palm Street truck route at the same time they are renovating Visalia Road. According to Ennis, initial time frames project Palm Street to be completed in three months, and Visalia Road to be completed in 10 months.

The Road 280 widening project, which includes Visalia Road, is several years in the making. Tulare County Association of Government (TCAG), and member cities’ goal has been to widen Road 280 – Caldwell/Visalia Road – from Highway 99 through Exeter. While some portions of the project have already been completed, namely Farmersville, Exeter’s portion of Visalia Road has been in a holding pattern since estimates came back $2-3 million higher than the anticipated $4,865,000.

Ennis said last December that initial cost estimates are not a perfect science and it is not until designers begin putting pen to paper can they realize how much the cost of the project will be.

“TCAG indicated that Measure R could not fund the complete project as identified unless it was delayed or reduced until additional funding could be found,” per an Exeter staff report from December 2018.

The project was delayed for more than a year until the City and TCAG were able to split the project into two phases. Phase one was an initial plan to widen the road from Elberta on the western city boundary through the Belmont intersection. Then phase two would be to widen the road from Belmont to Orange. According to staff reports, the City was able to fund a slightly different plan that covers more ground thanks to acquiring federal funding for the project.

“The adjustments we are making to phase one will give us a lot of bang for our buck,” Exeter public works director Daymon Qualls said.

Instead of starting at Elberta and moving toward Belmont, phase one will begin at Orange and end at Jacob Place at the apartments past the Save Mart shopping center.

“Since additional federal funding recently became available for the project, staff is working on a plan to extend phase one of the project farther west to Jacobs Place, thereby completing more in the first phase and leaving less for the Phase two project later,” a staff report noted.

Ennis added the project also called for a look at the two bus stops in front of Save Mart and Burger King. The asphalt has weakened and cracked under the weight of the buses and been an eye sore among other things in those areas.

Moving forward with the project the Exeter City Council approved over $330,000 for the design company, GHD Inc. at their Nov. 27, 2018 meeting to include the changes to the new phase one plan.

“So, what’s happened is the City approached the designer for the project, now that the City approved the designers’ project, they can finish the design to go out to bid for construction,” Ennis said.

Qualls added during the meeting that the next time the Council hears about the project will be when they are ready to approve a bid. From there, Ennis says the construction firm will assess the time frame when the project will begin and then completed. As of now there is no outlook on Phase 2 of the project from Jacobs Place to Elberta, and that portion will be readdressed when funds become available.

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