$5.3M grant paves the way for Avenue 56 repairs

Photo by Rigo Moran

Tulare County receives $5.3 million grant to permanently repair flood damaged Avenue 56

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Alex Padilla has announced that Tulare County will receive $5.3 million in federal funding to permanently repair Avenue 56, which was damaged during historic flooding in 2023.

During that time, the community of Alpaugh was cut off from emergency services during the flooding, which led to Tule Lake reforming when multiple roads were overwhelmed. Avenue 56 was destroyed by the flooding and Tulare County was forced to temporarily rebuild the road to reopen access to the community.

Now, with federal funding and 20% in matching local funds, a permanent replacement for the two-mile stretch of road will be constructed.

Construction of a permanent elevated roadway will begin in about 18 months and should take about six to eight months to complete. The local funding will come from the Roads funds and have been approved by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors according to Ross Miller, Chief Engineer, Resource Management Agency.

“There were a lot of evacuation orders issued for various communities. As the lake began to fill, a lot of the roads flooded,” Miller said. “This required the closing of Highway 43 in sections, it required the closure of Avenue 56 and the closure of a lot of other roads.”

Miller said the community of Alpaugh used to be a type of island or peninsula when Tule Lake existed, so as the flooding happened, the community initially wasn’t doing bad.

“But then, the community became inaccessible to emergency services; people couldn’t get in, people couldn’t get out,” he said.

The county’s solution was to build a temporary elevated roadway. The project required haining in dirt and gravel and installing a temporary roadway surface. Miller explained that the temporary road wasn’t designed to meet proper permanent road standards, but was insteak meant as a way to provide access to Alpaugh.

The temporary road will now be replaced with a properly-designed permanent road structure that ensures floods in the future won’t have such a devastating effect on area residents.

Miller said the temporary project raised the road surface about five feet and involved multiple partners to develop.

“We sort of created a land bridge, so the project we are seeking funds for is to make the temporary road permanent,” Miller said. “It wasn’t necessarily done up to the standards we want for a permanent road. The side slopes, we want those to be a little wider, and we probably want to put a little better drainage under the road, so it doesn’t act like a berm or a dam.”

Funding is coming from a federal grant known as Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Grant Program. It is a small part of a much larger $60.6 million grant that funds projects all over the state.

“As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of floods, wildfires and extreme heat, climate-smart transportation infrastructure can be the difference between life and death,” said Senator Padilla in a statement. “Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re delivering major investments in underserved and Tribal communities to expedite emergency response and secure reliable emergency evacuation routes while creating more good-paying construction jobs.”

The grant is sending $3.1 million to Los Angeles county to improve accessibility on Interstate-5, $4.1 million to aid the California Department of Transportation to do projects on I-96 and I-169, $24 million to the City of Davis for road projects and $20 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to improve a 10.3 mile section of I-37.

In 2022, Senator Padilla announced over $631 million over five years for the PROTECT Formula Program. Padilla previously authored an amendment included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to ensure that vegetation management along roadways, a critical activity to help prevent wildfires in California, is eligible under the PROTECT Program, the statement from Padilla’s office reads.

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