City infrastructure funding gets on the road

Visalia has completed $42 million capital improvement projects in the last two years and is working on more than $143 million more

VISALIA – While 2020 will be remembered, or hopefully somewhat forgotten, for the government’s response to the global pandemic, 2021 might be remembered as the year lawmakers got back to the basics of government. In October, the U.S. Congress debated and passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, California is preparing to spend $6 billion on high-speed internet infrastructure, Tulare County is investing a record $155 million into local parks and Visalia announced it was working on more than $143 million in road, trail and facility projects throughout the city.

Assistant city manager Nick Mascia, who has been in charge of the city’s capital improvement project (CIP) budget as public works director since January 2019, told the Visalia City Council that equated to more than 100 ongoing projects during a CIP report at the Oct. 18 meeting.

“In my experience, this amount of capital improvement projects is highly unlikely,” said Mascia, who previously worked as assistant public works director in Surprise, Ariz. and began his career as a traffic engineer in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Normally, a city this size might have half that.”

In 2021, the city has completed projects totaling $10.7 million including the creation of its traffic management system, St. John’s Riparian Trail, roof replacements at the airport terminals and at the Fairview and Anthony community centers, road seals in the northeast and the roundabout at Santa Fe Street and Tulare Avenue.

These are in addition to projects completed in 2020, a list three times larger than this year’s. Last year, Visalia completed projects totaling $31.1 million including the widening of the Highway 198 interchange at Akers Avenue, the final phase of the Riverway Sports Park, pedestrian bridge at Mill Creek and Shirk Avenue, traffic signals at County Center Street and Houston Avenue and at Mooney Boulevard and Riggin Road, and trail improvement projects along the Modoc Ditch and Packwood Creek trails.

In all, the city is currently working on projects totaling $143 million including $59 million in transportation/traffic projects, $36 million in roadway projects, $32 million in water resources projects, $11.5 million in facilities improvements, and $4 million in intelligent transportation projects. One of the largest projects underway is the widening of Riggin Road from Kelsey Street to Demaree Street and from Mooney Boulevard to Dinuba Boulevard. The city is also working to widen the intersection of Visalia Parkway and Mooney Boulevard.

One of the city’s primary focuses is addressing the congestion in northwest Visalia along the Riggin Road and Shirk Avenue corridors. Both roads will be widened across the northwest quadrant of the city for both better traffic flow and to create easier truck routes through the city as UPS, Amazon and other companies expand their logistical presence in what is considered a central hub for the state.

“These projects are those transportation rings around the city that help improve circulation,” Mascia said.

Some projects currently underway include the extension of the Packwood Creek Trail, construction of the Greenway Trail along the power line towers on the city’s east side, adding three traffic signals on Riggin Road at County Center, Giddings and Demaree, repaving parking lots at the Visalia Library and Plaza Park.

Mascia said Visalia is fortunate to have access to three major sources of road funding including the countywide half-cent sales tax Measure R, the city’s own half-cent sales tax Measure N and impact fees, which developers pay to the city as part of new construction projects in order to offset the additional services needed at the new site.

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