Highway 180 extension to aid commutes

November 29, 2009 

Commuters east of Fresno are scheduled for some welcome relief this week with the opening of the newest extension of the Highway 180 freeway between Clovis and Temperance avenues.

The opening date has not yet been announced. Caltrans officials said there still is some work to be done on traffic signals at the interchanges.

But a ribbon-cutting is planned for Thursday at Kings Canyon Road and Locan Avenue, just east of the extension's terminus. At the same event, there will be a groundbreaking for the next Highway 180 project -- widening it from two to four lanes between Temperance and Academy avenues, a more than six-mile stretch.

Federal stimulus funds approved by Congress in February are covering $18.3 million of the $29.6 million construction cost for the Temperance-Academy segment, said Caltrans project manager Neil Bretz. The rest is mainly from Measure C, Fresno County's half-cent transportation sales tax.

The stimulus money allowed Caltrans to move up construction from 2012 to now, said Sharri Bender Ehlert, deputy director for planning in the agency's Fresno office.

"This is probably the best example we have of how the stimulus was applied," Ehlert said.

For the $53.4 million freeway segment that is about to open, funds came from Measure C and two state sources. The 3.2-mile project includes new interchanges at Fowler and Temperance avenues.

It is the last freeway segment scheduled to be built under the Measure C program, which voters originally approved in 1986 for a 20-year span. The measure's extension, approved in 2006, shifted much of the program's emphasis toward public transit.

Completion of the Temperance-Academy segment -- which will be an expressway like Highway 41 south of Fresno, not a freeway -- is currently scheduled for summer 2011. The next phase from Academy to Trimmer Springs Road is planned for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The reporter can be reached at rclemings@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6371.

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