Fresno City Council members embarked Thursday on a journey to make Veterans Boulevard a road to somewhere -- across Highway 99 in northwest Fresno.
The new artery will cost $109.8 million and could include $25 million from the California High-Speed Rail Authority under an agreement approved by the council.
Veterans Boulevard will cross over Highway 99 and meet up with Bullard Avenue on the east side of the freeway, between Shaw and Herndon avenues.
The City Council also approved an agreement with Caltrans to support the Veterans Boulevard extension when it comes up for consideration before the California Transportation Commission, and a third agreement to cover additional engineering work. An environmental impact report was previously approved by the council.
Veterans Boulevard, which now ends abruptly near the Island Water Park and has been called a road to nowhere, will become a major artery between northwest Fresno and the east side of Highway 99.
In addition to rail authority money, the project will be funded by developer fees, Measure C, Fresno County's half-cent transportation sales-tax measure, state transportation dollars and regional transportation fees. The project will include the overpass and freeway ramps, about a dozen traffic signals at area intersections, a trail connection and raised landscaped medians.
In endorsing the plan, Council Member Steve Brandau, who represents the area, called it the "last of a big loop to serve our city."
He also said it will set up Fresno's west side for additional development.
Central Unified School District officials have told Brandau that traffic congestion in the area is a major reason why students arrive late for school.
The city's road projects have lagged behind student growth and school construction in the district, said Central Unified Superintendent Mike Berg, who didn't attend the council meeting.
"We believe Veterans Boulevard is the answer to finally opening the door to fully developing west (of Highway 99)," he said. "This is a very positive development."
Acquiring right-of-way from property owners in the area is expected to cost about $19 million, and appraisals are under way, said Scott Mozier, Fresno city engineer.
The rail authority's $25 million contribution will pay for an overpass at Union Pacific Railroad tracks east of Highway 99. The rail authority's funding is expected to move the project opening date up two years to 2018, Mozier said.
Veterans Boulevard will be extremely busy once it connects across Highway 99, said Jeff Roberts, a vice president of Granville Homes.
"On opening day there will be 35,000 vehicles a day using the road that are bottle-necked elsewhere in this area," he said.
Reach the reporter at (559)441-6166, email@example.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.