MODESTO — Stanislaus County officials are working on a project to relieve traffic congestion on Claribel Road, east of McHenry Avenue.
The $15.2 million proposal will widen Claribel to four lanes from McHenry to Oakdale Road and put a signal at the Coffee Road intersection. The stop signs at the intersection often delay motorists for 3½ minutes or more.
Officials said that section of Claribel is one of the county's most congested roadways. The slow-moving cars pollute the air, and the congestion results in traffic accidents. The county has tallied 66 collisions there since 2007.
"The people who live and work on the corridor know there is a need for (the project)," said Aja Verburg, an associate civil engineer with the county.
Verburg said the county plans to start construction in the fall to replace the bridge over the Modesto Irrigation District canal, east of Coffee.
It hopes to widen the roadway in 2014. The county will choose a contractor before deciding whether to start work at the west or east end of the two-mile road section, Verburg said. A combination of state and federal funding is paying for the upgrades.
Right now, the county is in negotiations to obtain a 90-foot-wide strip of land on the north side of Claribel to create the extra lanes. The county needs a portion of about 17 parcels, which are mainly in agriculture use.
According to a report, the county won't try to acquire property on the south side because of structures at Bambacigno Steel near McHenry, Morningside Mobile Home Park and an MID substation.
This evening, supervisors could use eminent domain authority to take a parcel with a small, 64-year-old rental house, garage and shed at 1743 Claribel Road, about halfway between Coffee and Oakdale. Officials said the owners, John and Suki Gonzalez, have not responded to the county's offer of $85,000.
A county-hired appraiser found that's the fair market value for the 0.69-acre parcel and improvements.
According to a county report, "The residence is not owner-occupied and the tenant has an excessive amount of personal property on the parcel."
Records show that John and Suki Gonzalez bought the property for $345,000 in early 2004, three years before the real estate collapse in Stanislaus County.
According to the county, the owners did not respond to a dozen calls between June 2011 and last month. Staff will continue with attempts to negotiate even if the county begins the eminent domain process.
John Gonzalez did not return messages from The Bee.
The Board of Supervisors meets at 6:30 p.m. today in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.