Our View: Pelandale project a big plus for Modesto and safety

October 9, 2013 

If you don’t recall why it’s so important that the Pelandale Avenue interchange on Highway 99 be enlarged, wait another six to eight weeks. The Christmas shopping season is when traffic is at its worst there, to the point where cars are stopped on 99 while their drivers wait to reach the off-ramp. The congestion is not just inconvenient, it is downright dangerous. Add a little fog and the recipe becomes toxic.

Modesto leaders have every reason to be pleased that the California Transportation Commission has awarded $43.8 million for the project. Construction is expected to get under way in the spring.

We also like the look of the overcrossing, which features attractive columns and a scalloped fence. We hope that’s how it turns out in a couple of years, because Modesto’s “curb appeal” from 99 isn’t particularly good at most interchanges.

As we noted in an editorial in August, northern San Joaquin Valley residents have fared pretty well from Proposition 1B, the $19.9 billion bond for highway, street and transit improvements. The Kiernan interchange also is being upgraded using some of that bond money, and city officials put on the pressure for Pelandale also to get some of the funds left over from other projects. Obviously, that pressure paid off.

Local elected officials and staff have dogged this money over the last seven years. Modesto City Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside and Stanislaus Council of Governments Executive Director Carlos Yamzon were singled out for their efforts during the commission meeting held Tuesday in Modesto – for the first time.

But early officials also deserve mention, including former Mayor Jim Ridenour and former Stanislaus County Supervisor Jeff Grover, who persuaded other Valley officials to earmark money for Kiernan.

In both cases, this required attending hours of meetings up and down the Valley. It’s the kind of work that is generally unseen and unappreciated by residents. What they will see is the results – larger and safer freeway interchanges.

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