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Fresno leaders to celebrate bus rapid transit construction

A Fresno Area Xpress map shows the route for the city’s bus rapid transit system. Construction of the BRT will start in June 2016, and operation is expected in fall 2017.
A Fresno Area Xpress map shows the route for the city’s bus rapid transit system. Construction of the BRT will start in June 2016, and operation is expected in fall 2017. Contributed

Construction of Fresno’s new Bus Rapid Transit system is expected to begin in a couple of weeks, but Mayor Ashley Swearengin and city leaders will get a head start on the work with a ceremony Wednesday.

The event will be at 10:30 a.m. at the Fresno Area Xpress transit bus terminal at the Manchester Center shopping center at Blackstone and Dayton avenues. Joining Swearengin will be City Manager Bruce Rudd, Fresno transportation director Brian Marshall and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

When it is completed next year, the 15.7-mile, $28 million system will offer faster bus service along the Blackstone Avenue and Kings Canyon Road corridors linking downtown Fresno with the River Park and Sunnyside areas.

Earlier this year, the Fresno City Council awarded a $32.6 million contract for BRT construction. But because the bids came in over budget, plans were to trim features from the project to knock the price down by about $4 million. In her proposed budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, Swearengin has earmarked about $30.2 million out of FAX’s $69 million capital budget to build the BRT system.

BRT will operate differently than standard transit bus service because there will be about a half mile between stops instead of a quarter mile; buses will operate with transit signal priority at intersections; and customers will buy tickets at off-board vending machines instead of dropping coins in a cash box aboard the bus.

The system is not expected to have any effect on Fresno’s general fund, the pot of money from which many of the city’s day-to-day bills are paid. Instead, federal and state grants are paying for the construction. Once the system is built, operating costs estimated at $2.65 million per year will be underwritten for the first three years by a federal grant; by replacing portions of two existing FAX bus routes, the city can also make use of current labor, fuel and equipment.

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