By Reggie Ellis
visalia – A wall that stood in the way of a major east-west expressway in Tulare County, has finally been removed … only to be put back up just out of the way.
At its May 2 meeting, the Visalia City Council adopted a resolution to remove a decorative block wall at the corner of Aspen Street and Caldwell Avenue to widen Aspen. The narrow road’s right turn lane approach onto Caldwell Avenue needed to be widened for safe traffic flow as part of a project to expand Caldwell to three lanes on the City’s west side.
Because that portion of the project is under County jurisdiction, City staff reached out to the County to request that the installation of a block wall to replace the one planned for demolition. Community Development Director Nick Mascia said the County agreed to include the installation of a new block wall in an effort to move the project forward.
Overall, the responses from the residents were positive and the HOA was in favor of the proposed block wall location and length and open to providing the landscaping. Turnberry’s Homeowner’s Association (HOA) tentatively agreed to provide landscaping adjacent to the proposed wall. Under the resolution, the HOA will enter into an agreement with the City for the maintenance responsibility of the block wall and optional landscaping.
As part of the project, the County will install irrigation sleeve to allow for future connections, which will eliminate the need for trenching the road when irrigation lines are installed.
The compromise was in response to subdivision residents voicing their opposition to the removal of the wall during the Council’s March 21 meeting. About a dozen homeowners from Turnberry Place turned out at the meeting , including Don Schneider, who dismissed City staff’s safety concerns saying that speeding is already a problem on Akers and widening isn’t going to make it any safer.
Karen Redfield, president of Turnberry Place’s homeowners association, said the wall was not only part of the subdivision’s aesthetic, but it also helped keep out the dust of the streets during harvest, dulled the noise from passing cars on Caldwell and shielded the community from the lights of passing cars.
City staff also met with Jim Robinson, owner of the where the proposed block wall is being placed, who was amenable to the placement of the block wall on his property as long as he had access onto Aspen Street. There will not be any curbing and gutter improvements along Robinson’s property because he is planning to develop the property into homes. Street improvements will be paid for through the future development of the property.
At the same meeting, the City Council authorized staff to award the contract to widen Caldwell to a six-lane roadway (three lanes in each direction with a left turn pocket) between Santa Fe Avenue and Lovers Lane. The contract was awarded to 4 Creeks Engineering Co. for $760,000.
The expansion of Avenue 280 was proposed in 2003 after a 1999 study by the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) revealed that an increase in traffic would cause congestion along the corridor and at the Highway 99 interchange.
The project is being completed using a combination of local impact fees, municipal road funds and Measure R funds by the County of Tulare and the cities of Exeter, Farmersville and Visalia in conjunction with Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration. The Avenue 280 project is slated for completion by 2031. The City of Visalia estimates its portion of the project will cost between $8 million and $9 million.