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Manning Avenue (Fresno, CA) Corridor Initiative

January, 2003 - produced by Jack Faucett Associates under the direction of AECOM Consulting

Project Type: Connectivity and circulation

The map shows that the Manning Avenue corridor is located in the south central portion of Fresno County, which itself is located in central California.

Project Objectives: Promote and accommodate commercial development along a major highway
Outcomes Metric: Revitalization potential, expected job gains, tax base effects, new businesses established
Economic Environment: Metropolitan
Economic History: Above average population growth, high unemployment
Distinguishing Features: The Manning Avenue Corridor is unique among the projects considered in the initiative in that the primary analysis is for a series of half a dozen cities in a portion of the county.

I. Existing Conditions

The study area includes the following five cities, from east to west along Manning Avenue: (1) Orange Cove, (2) Reedley, (3) Parlier, (4) Selma, and (5) Fowler. During the 1990s, the five cities of Orange Cove, Reedley, Parlier, Selma and Fowler, combined, accounted for approximately five percent of Fresno County' total population. The California Department of Finance estimates for the period from 1990 to 2000 show average annual population growth rates of 3.1 percent for Orange Cove, 2.5 percent for Reedley, and 3.2 percent for Parlier. In short, the corridor cities’ populations are growing faster than Fresno County as a whole.

Despite this rapid population growth, the Manning Avenue Corridor economy has not prospered to the same degree. The unemployment rate for Fresno County has consistently been higher than the unemployment rate for the State of California and for the United States. In the year 2001, the Fresno County unemployment rate was 14.2 percent, according to California' Employment Development Department (CAEDD). The unemployment rate for the Manning Avenue Study Area corridor cities has also been consistently higher than the state and national average. In 2001, the unemployment rates for the Manning Avenue cities were all estimated to be 20 percent or more (CAEDD). That is, one in every five corridor residents who wanted a job did not have one. The jobless rate was highest in the City of Parlier, where one-third of the labor force lacked employment. By contrast, the jobless rate for the State of California was just 5.3 percent and the jobless rate for the U.S. was an even lower 4.8 percent (CAEDD: state; US Bureau of Labor Statistics: US). Moreover, these high rates of joblessness have prevailed over the length of one of the strongest economic expansions on record.

Exhibit 1: Population Growth is Strong in the Manning Avenue Corridor

Bar Chart: Population growth, 1990-2000. Click image for text version.

Source: U.S. Census, 2000

Rapid population growth and a very high rate of unemployment create a dual challenge to economic development in the Manning Avenue corridor. Population growth is causing a growing congestion problem that is placing future economic growth at risk precisely in places where it is most needed, as demonstrated by the high rate of joblessness.

Exhibit 2: Persistent Unemployment in the Manning Avenue Corridor Economy

Line graph. Click image for text version.

Sources: Manning Avenue (CAEDD, weighted average of city rates), CA (CAEDD), US (BLS)

Current employment in Manning Avenue is heavily weighted toward agricultural-related sectors of the economy. The Manning Avenue Study Area corridor includes and is adjacent to a large portion of Fresno County' most highly productive agricultural land. The study corridor' five cities include businesses that are involved in providing services for agricultural production and transporting and warehousing agricultural products. In addition, the five cities’ employers include those businesses that participate in production of food products and the wholesale trade of agricultural and food products between the local region and the rest of the world.

Critical existing industries are identified as those that are large or in which the economy has a comparative advantage. Exhibit 3 shows the five sectors employing the largest numbers of workers in Fresno County. Health Services is the largest sector in the county, followed by Eating and Drinking Places, Business Services, Food and Kindred Products, and Special Trade Contractors (plumbers, carpenters, etc.). The exhibit also shows the location quotient for these industries. The location quotient is a measure of an industry' concentration in a local economy relative to the national concentration. For example, a value of 1.1 indicates that the industry is 10% more concentrated in the local economy compared to the U.S. The 1.1 value is generally used as the threshold to identify whether the industry is producing more than is needed for local consumption and is thus exporting to locations elsewhere in the U.S. or world. As shown below, the food industry is Fresno' leading export industry.

Exhibit 3: Top Five Fresno County Sectors by Employment

SIC Code





Health Services




Eating and Drinking Places




Business Services




Food and Kindred Products




Special Trade Contractors



Source: County Business Patterns, JFA calculations

Economic activities in which the region already has expertise and comparative advantage can serve as an important foundation for the region' future economic growth. Although many critical economic sectors have faltered in recent years, the local food industry has remained strong relative to the U.S. economy, as the results in Exhibit 4 indicate. Of the ten basic sectors that currently cluster within the county, seven lost ground relative to their nationwide counterparts. Over the past decade, only three sectors in the Fresno County economy grew faster than similar sectors in the national economy. These three sectors were: (1) Food and Kindred Products, (2) Agricultural Services, and (3) Wholesale Trade – Nondurables. In the more recent five-year period, only the first of these three has been able to gain ground relative to the national economy.

Analysis of the corridor' growth prospects requires looking beyond existing economic conditions to anticipate new economic opportunities. Based on several recent studies, Fresno County' economic development strategy identifies five target industrial clusters, broadly categorized into the industries listed in the bottom of Exhibit 4. Industrial Machinery, Wholesale Trade of Durables, and Fabricated Metal Products have all fared well in the latter part of the 1990s.

Since Manning Avenue' employers are highly concentrated in the agricultural-related industry sectors, they are highly dependent upon the amount and qualities of the transportation infrastructure, particularly roads that provide access between the Manning Avenue Corridor and the rest of Fresno County and the United States. Manning Avenue may be considered a classic "farm-to-market" road, with the market for agricultural and food products from the study area extending to the entire world. As a result, it is particularly important that Manning Avenue businesses have good road facilities both for the movement of its employees to and from work sites and for the movement of goods that are inputs into agricultural related production and goods that are agricultural related and associated products.

Exhibit 4: Growth in Fresno' Critical Economic Sectors Relative to National Growth

SIC Code Sector Differential Growth
Basic sectors
2000 Food And Kindred Products
0700 Agricultural Services
5100 Wholesale Trade – Nondurables
5200 Building Materials & Garden Supplies
7500 Automotive Repair, Services
5800 Eating And Drinking Places
4900 Electric, Gas, and Sanitary Services
6300/ 6400 Insurance Services
7600 Miscellaneous Repair Services
1700 Special Trade Contractors
Other large sectors
8000 Health Services
7300 Business Services
Other strategic sectors
3500 Industrial Machinery
5000 Wholesale Trade – Durables
3400 Fabricated Metal Products
4200 Trucking and Warehousing
4700 Transportation Services

Source: County Business Patterns, JFA estimates and calculations

Interviews with local employers undertaken as part of this study produced a number of statements from current Manning Avenue businesses that road improvement was one of the most important factors that would make the Manning Avenue Corridor a more attractive site for business location. A majority of responding employers indicated that improving roads ought to be the first priority for making Manning Avenue more attractive to businesses. Exhibit 5 summarizes the percentage of respondents within each category who cited a particular reason for avoiding Manning Avenue.

Exhibit 5: Reasons Why Employers Do Not Send Trucks On Manning Avenue, by Industry


Too Much Local Vehicle Traffic

Too Much Local Foot Traffic

Too Many Other Trucks

Poor Quality of Road

Lanes Too Narrow

Other Routes More Direct and/or Convenient

Agricultural Services

(SIC 07)








(SIC 20,42,51)







Survey Average







The traffic impact analysis results presented have clear implications for economic development and the ability of the five cities in the Manning Avenue Corridor to reach their full employment growth potential. Existing businesses indicated that transportation issues were a major concern and consideration in site location. Prospective employers also may consider transportation issues in deciding where to locate their businesses. As a result, maximizing the employment growth potential for the corridor cities may require infrastructure investment that facilitates the movement of goods and people in and out of the corridor cities, particularly along segments where level of service is generally unacceptable.

II. Highway Project

Manning Avenue is the critical corridor for the east-west movement of labor and goods in Southeastern Fresno County. Manning Avenue in the study area connects five cities of Orange Cove, Reedley, Parlier, Selma and Fowler with State Highway 99, which itself connects to the larger highway and transportation system throughout the San Joaquin Valley and the State of California. There is no comparable parallel road or highway that provides access and connections to the larger system for the five cities in the Manning Avenue study area. For the two cities of Orange Cove and Reedley, Manning Avenue is particularly important because it is one of the very few 4-lane roads that crosses the Kings River to connect eastern Fresno County with the rest of the state and the national highway system.

Exhibit 6: Map of the Manning Avenue Corridor

The map shows that the Manning Avenue corridor extends from the Fresno County line at Orange Cove at its eastern-most point and moves westward through Reedley and Parlier, and then runs just north of Selma and ends in Fowler at California Route 99.

The businesses in all five cities rely upon Manning Avenue for both employee commute trips and for shipment of goods produced.

Manning Avenue is a major east-west road that travels across most of the breadth of Fresno County. The road is designated by Fresno County as,

The planned transportation projects include a series of improvements in the eastern part of the Manning Avenue Corridor between the cities of Parlier, Reedley, and Orange Cove. The improvements consist of widenings, reconstructions, re-paving, and provision of left turn lanes, shoulders, curbs, sidewalks, and gutters.

The total estimated cost of all the projects is approximately $18.8 million (year 2002 dollars).The projects, taken as a whole, would provide additional capacity along the eastern part of the Manning Avenue Corridor, improving traffic flow by reducing the congestion that occasionally arises, particularly during the peak hours, and reducing the likelihood of conflicts between trucks and automobiles, and conflicts between through traffic and local traffic. It is not clear to what extent the improvements would reduce conflicts between through traffic and traffic attempting to cross Manning Avenue, since Manning Avenue is not grade separated. It is also not clear what impact the planned improvements would have on traffic safety. Exhibit 7 presents the list of planned Manning Avenue improvements.

The planned Manning Avenue improvements have potential positive economic impacts in terms of facilitating more efficient traffic flow for trucks involved in goods shipment and automobiles involved in commuting, shopping, and other trips. Additionally, the improvements could have an impact on safety and result in fewer accidents, injury, and loss of life, although determination of this is beyond the scope of this particular study.

Exhibit 7: Planned Manning Avenue Improvements

Summary Descriptions of Improvements

Cost ($2002)

Unincorporated Fresno County


Two Lane Reconstruction from Crawford Avenue to Hill Avenue



Two Lane to Four Lane Widening from Alta Avenue to Hill Avenue



Two Lane to Four Lane Widening from Buttonwillow Avenue to Alta Avenue


City of Reedley


Right of Way Acquisition and Sidewalk Construction



Rehabilitate Kings River Bridge and Install Guardrails



Widening from Haney to Buttonwillow on South Side of Manning Avenue



Reconstruction and Overlay from Kings River Drive to Eastern City Limits



Widen from Two to Four Lanes from I Street to Columbia


City of Parlier


Reconstruction and Addition of Turn Lanes with Median, Curb and Gutter, from Academy Avenue to Riverbend Avenue


Total Estimated Cost of Planned Improvements


III. Objectives of the Projects

Since Manning Avenue is the most direct link between portions of southern Fresno County and Highway 99 and I-5, existing and prospective businesses likely consider the reported deterrents to using Manning Avenue for shipments in determining whether to expand or establish a business in the corridor area. Making Manning Avenue more attractive for business use is central to promoting economic development in the area.

By preempting/easing congestion at key bottlenecks and by facilitating more efficient traffic flow for trucks involved in goods shipment and automobiles involved in commuting, shopping, and other trips, the day-to-day cost of operating a business or visiting a business along Manning Avenue is reduced. As a result, existing businesses are more likely to expand at their current location and new businesses are more likely to select the corridor as their Fresno County location. As a consequence, transportation improvements will enable the Manning Avenue Corridor economy to retain or expand its share of Fresno County' growth.


Economic Development Efforts and Activities in the Manning Avenue Corridor

The cities along Manning Avenue have worked with the County of Fresno, the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation, and other cities and organizations to promote economic development and encourage expansion of existing businesses and siting of new businesses along the study area corridor. Three cooperative efforts are particularly noteworthy:

  1. The Manning Avenue Business Development Association was formed in October 2001 to cooperatively promote economic development along the Manning Avenue Corridor.
  2. The Five Cities Joint Powers Authority Consortium, including the cities of Fowler, Selma, Parlier, and Reedley, formed a joint powers authority in May 1998 to pool economic development resources in joint marketing efforts.
  3. The cities of Orange Cove and Parlier were designated by the federal government as Rural Renewal Communities in January 2002. The two cities are actively working with businesses interested in locating in the two cities to benefit from the federal tax incentives associated with the designation.

In addition to the cooperative economic development efforts in the Manning Avenue Corridor, the five individual cities and Fresno County have set aside land for new or expanded industrial parks and commercial, retail, and other developments. By designating this land for future development, they have sought to facilitate the expansion and location of businesses in their jurisdictions. Taking into account these and other activities in total, it is expected that economic development efforts and natural growth will result in significant increases in population and employment in Manning Avenue Corridor between the current year and 2020.

The Fresno County General Plan Update of November 1999 included an Economic Development Strategy, which outlined a vision for economic development in Fresno County. The preferred growth scenario, which serves as the county' Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), includes the following four goals:

  1. Encouraging shifts in agricultural production to maximize employment benefits.
  2. Promoting value-added agriculture industries with national and global markets.
  3. Diversifying the economy to create non-agricultural basic employment.
  4. Boosting the county' tourism sector.

A number of county and city agencies and organizations work cooperatively to promote economic development in Fresno County. The California State Trade and Commerce Agency has designated the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation (FCEDC) as the lead agency for business marketing for the county. In addition, the Fresno County economic development strategy of 1999 called for the County and cities to collaborate to support business growth and development. A key excerpt from the implementation approach to the economic development strategy states:

"The County and the cities must create a workable capital improvements plan and resource allocation system to ensure that the costs and benefits of economic development are shared appropriately. The County can assist by coordinating regional land use and infrastructure planning, supporting initiatives to develop regional solutions to economic constraints such as water supply, and cooperating with the efforts of cities and other agencies to access state and federal funds for vital projects to the county."

V. Methodology

While the intent of the corridor analysis is NOT to construct a benefit-cost comparison, it is instructive to estimate possible economic benefits, which may result from the highway improvements. The economic and fiscal impacts analysis considered two scenarios.

  1. Baseline (Full Projected) Employment Scenario
  2. Traffic Impacted Employment Scenario

The difference in outcomes between the baseline and traffic impacted scenarios defines the amount of economic development that is at risk if the planned transportation improvements are not made. This overall strategy is outlined in more detail below.

Baseline Scenario

Fresno County' General Plan forecast was adopted as the foundation for the baseline scenario for employment growth in the Manning Avenue corridor economy. This selection was made after a careful review of the most current, available, and credible data sources. Moreover, the selection relied on feedback from Local Advisory Committee and Technical Subcommittee representatives who indicated that the Fresno County General Plan employment forecasts were more plausible than other alternatives considered, based on the methodology used in deriving the forecasts and trends in employment growth. Based on the projected employment growth in these categories and existing traffic on Manning Avenue, the associated traffic impacts on Manning Avenue in 2020 were projected.

The Fresno County General Plan projections only cover office and industrial job categories. The Baseline Employment Scenario presented here differs from the Fresno County General Plan projections in that it considers all types of employment to account for indirect and induced employment related to direct employment in the office and industrial job categories. In addition to office and industrial job categories, the three other job categories included in this analysis are (1) retail, (2) public/institutional and (3) agricultural production. This total employment scenario is the Baseline Employment Scenario.

Traffic Impacted Employment Scenario

The Traffic Impacted Employment Scenario adjusts the Baseline Employment Scenario to reflect the reduction in projected employment that could result from the projected traffic congestion in the Manning Avenue Corridor even after planned improvements are made. This Traffic Impacted Scenario is based on the logic that if traffic congestion in the corridor is unacceptable, some businesses will choose to locate elsewhere. As a result, the full amount of projected employment would not be realized in the Manning Avenue Corridor. This analysis is not intended to suggest that without these improvements all those jobs considered "at-risk" because of traffic congestion will not materialize. Traffic congestion is not the only criterion business owners’ use in deciding business location. Rather, the results are intended to estimate the amount of the projected economic and fiscal benefits of economic development that, because of the traffic congestion deterrent, could go unrealized.

Projecting the "at-risk" employment requires the following estimates: (1) the amount of traffic associated with the expected increase in population and employment along Manning Avenue, (2) the maximum amount of traffic that Manning Avenue could handle if no improvements were made, and (3) the maximum amount of traffic that Manning Avenue could handle if the planned improvements were made.

Manning Avenue' maximum traffic capacity was defined as the number of vehicles per hour at the minimally acceptable level of service (LOS D). Level of service is a qualitative grade based on quantitative measures of operational conditions within a traffic stream such as speed, travel time, freedom to maneuver, comfort and convenience, and safety. Grades range from A (best) to F (worst).

Overall, the analysis showed that approximately 30 percent of jobs and the attendant economic benefits are "at risk" due to traffic congestion. The significance of this finding demonstrates the direct relationship between potential economic growth and investments to increase highway capacity.

VI. Results

The economic impact analysis was structured to quantify the employment impacts associated with differing levels of highway capacity and congestion. The analysis considered three principal areas of economic and fiscal benefits: (1) Income, (2) Sales Tax Revenue, and (3) Property Tax Revenue.

The economic and fiscal impacts associated with the baseline total employment forecast in the Manning Avenue Corridor are shown below. These impacts represent a summary of the potential benefits associated with the full amount of projected employment growth. These impacts are presented as the annual impact in the year 2020 in 2002 dollars.

The traffic analysis showed that the planned transportation improvements would not be sufficient to completely alleviate the forecasted level of traffic congestion. As a result, some portion of the expected new jobs are at risk since some businesses may choose not to expand or locate in the Manning Avenue Corridor as a result of the current and expected levels of traffic congestion.

The amount of economic and fiscal benefits that are associated with the at-risk jobs may be called the at-risk economic benefits. The estimates of the at-risk economic benefits include:

A comparison of the potential annual economic benefit and the total cost of the planned improvements indicates that the net benefit is positive. The estimated increase in corridor income associated with the full set of potential employment growth is $242 million annually in the year 2020. Of this amount, $65 to $72 million are "at risk."

These results provide an initial indication that the planned improvements are warranted to capture some portion of baseline employment growth and other highway investments should be considered to achieve the at-risk economic benefits From an analytical perspective, the methodology focusing on highway investment to improve level of service and the results focusing on impacts related to the area economy show a direct relationship between highway investment to capture potential economic development opportunities.

Study Recommendations

The findings from the Corridors Initiative were used by the Local Advisory Committee to develop recommendations to advance the highway projects. The draft set of study recommendations in the form of activities includes the following:

  1. Recognize the potential for economic and fiscal benefits of transportation improvements, both those planned and those that may be additionally needed.
  1. Work cooperatively to improve the Manning Avenue Corridor, particularly through the Manning Avenue Business Development Corridor Association.
  1. Seek funding for the planned Manning Avenue transportation improvements.
  1. Continue to recruit employers to the Manning Avenue Corridor.
  1. Undertake a more focused study of traffic along Manning Avenue through the City of Reedley in order to identify additional transportation improvements that may be needed to provide a level of service consistent with the full potential for economic development.

The significant potential economic and fiscal impact of traffic congestion on future economic development indicates the need to examine options for additional improvements that can be made to alleviate the projected unacceptable traffic congestion along segments of Manning Avenue. By increasing capacity along these critical segments of Manning Avenue, the constraint that traffic potentially poses for business owners in determining business location will be removed.

Updated: 5/4/2012
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