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California State Route 99- Statement by Martin Weiss

A statement by Martin Weiss, Team Leader, National Systems and Economic Development Team, Office of Interstate and Border Planning, FHWA.


On April 4, 2005, I visited the corridor in company with Wade Hobbs of the California Division of the FHWA and State and local officials.

The visit served two purposes. The first; was to thank and recognize the cooperation of government and non-government officials in the SR-99 study. This study is available at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/economic_development/assistance/sr99ca.cfm.

The second; was to get a first had look at the corridor. Part of the context of this second purpose was that a number of officials from the area have visited the U.S. DOT headquarters in the past few years to seek support for designating SR-99 a future interstate. Legislative action to accomplish this had been introduced earlier in FY 2005.

Much of the corridor is already at interstate standards but much of the corridor is not. For example, there are numerous overpasses that do not have 16 feet of clearance. There are also intersections that are only partially controlled and will have to be either fully controlled or closed. The images below are all from general area of Fresno. However, the design issues cited occur elsewhere in the SR-99 corridor.

Looking west on 4th Street at the SR-99 overpass. The sign on the right indicates that the overpass provides only 15' 1". The Interstate standard is 16'.

April 4, 2005

photo of a four lane street

In the foreground is the exit from northbound SR-99. It is a ramp. In the background is the entrance to SR-99 it is controlled by a stop sign.

April 4, 2005

photo of an off ramp

There are also a number of miles of SR-99 that, although at interstate standards or nearly so, require widening and which will be very costly. Estimates made earlier in 2005 by CALTRANS indicate that the cost of implementing improvements for which commitments have already been made in one form or another would require over $2billion, while improvements needed to fully meet current interstate standards would require over $20 billion. CALTRANS keeps a web site dedicated to SR-99 in District 6 at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist6/factsheets/#sr99

Service road from which there is an on ramp for SR-99 at 4th St.; looking north. A widening of SR 99 will require relocation of this service road, reconstruction of the ramp, new retaining walls, a new structure and new landscaping.

April 4, 2005.

photo of a two lane road at a T intersection

Looking south at SR-99 from 4th Street overpass. The 4-lane freelay here is to be widening to 6-lanes.

April 4, 2005

photo of a four lane divided highway

The organizations seeking designation as a future interstate for this corridor consider it important because they feel such designation would help attract businesses and employers. Some, in Fresno, liken the current relationship between labor and capital to resemble the relationship of capital and labor in San Francisco in the late 1960s (i.e., much capital searching for relatively inexpensive and reliable labor to meet the needs of regional markets).

Notwithstanding the above, the Fresno area has, in the past few years, been the site of an expanding medical industry. Employers in this industry are concentrated along State Route 41 on the north side of Fresno. State Route 41 begins in Fresno at the junction of State Route 99 and then goes almost due north.

This is in the north part of the SR 41 corridor. It is a new Cardiac Center serving the region.

April 4, 2005

photo of a driveway leading to a medical center

This is one of the regional medical specialty centers in the north part of the SR 41 corridor.

April 4, 2005

photo of the Baz Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center

This is a five-story office building in the architectural form of a palace. Most of the offices are medical in nature. It is in the north part of the SR 41 corridor near numerous other medical facilities.

April 4, 2005.

photo of an office building

Within this concentration of employers, another industry has been expanding, namely the private education industry. Employers in this industry train employees for the medical industry.

The University of Phoenix is one of 7 private educational businesses that have centers of learning in the SR-41 corridor (on N Fresno Street) in the northern part of Fresno.

April 4, 2005.

photo of a University of Phoenix building and parking lot

Fresno expects a number of new businesses to open in or shortly after 2005. These include an electronics recycling plant (about 250 jobs) and a silk garment subassembly (also about 250 jobs).

Although these successes in attracting business are welcome, a number of civic and business leaders believe their efforts would bring more jobs to the area were SR-99 designated as a future interstate. The FHWA recognizes that this argument may be appealing to such leaders; however, criteria for designating future interstates are constrained by statute. This statute, title 23 U.S.C. 103 (c)(4)(B), does not specify economic development as a factor in such designation but does detail the requirement to meet Interstate standards within a set period of time.*

* In August 2005 legislation was enacted that designated the section of SR-99 from Bakersfield to Sacramento as a future interstate. The statutory language was contained in section 1304 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (a.k.a., SAFETEA-LU, P.L. 109-59). The requirements of 23 U.S.C. were not referenced and thus the statutory language does not require meeting Interstate standards within a set time period. As of March 2007, the FHWA does not have information on when such standards are likely to be met.

Updated: 05/04/2012
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