MADERA, California — Nearly $90 million and a decade later: a section of Highway 99 in Madera County will finally get a makeover many say is overdue.
Construction starts Aug. 5 to add a lane on the northbound side, as well as the southbound side, between Avenue 12 and Avenue 17. The work is set to happen at night to avoid commuters.
It’s slated to end summer 2020.
When it’s anytime between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., longtime Madera resident Julie Hagler will be avoiding Highway 99 at all costs.
“I just take side streets,” Hagler said. “I’ve been here almost 30 years, we really need some improvement. The development [in the area] keeps going, but the freeways and streets aren’t being brought up to speed.”
Hagler will now be getting what she wants, however, with more lanes on the way. Caltrans District 6 celebrated the $86.3 million project alongside leaders of all levels at a groundbreaking ceremony Friday.
Lifelong Maderan Brett Frazier — who is also the chairman of the Madera County Board of Supervisors — said the big thing is safety. With congestion being a common frustration for drivers on the highway in the county.
“It’s not even like you can check your rearview mirror, you just know there’s going to be a truck there [at the end of the on-ramp],” Frazier said. “You’re going to have to be on the shoulder for quite some time, but that truck has nowhere to go. The cars next to it have nowhere to go.”
Multiple funds are being used to pay for this, with $66 million coming in from the SB1 gas tax. Also, nearly $5 million is being used from Measure T funds — a half-cent sales tax passed by Madera County voters in 2006.
Other funding sources include the State Route 99 Bond and the Regional Improvement Program.
Besides safety, many leaders talked about the economic benefits of the project. Madera Mayor Andy Medellin — who also chairs the Madera County Transportation Commission — said a wider 99 means a faster way of getting the county’s good out there for the world market.
“The central San Joaquin Valley is agriculture-based. We need to get those goods to ports, to feed the nation and to feed the world. We can’t have them idling here in the freeway,” he said.
Besides adding new lanes, the project will also upgrade the Almond Avenue on-ramp, construct 3,500 feet of drainage systems with 70 new drainage systems, construct five maintenance vehicle pullouts, and construct a 25,000 foot concrete barrier.