Kevin Valine: With race undecided, Modesto councilwoman praised at meeting

11/07/2013 5:16 PM

11/07/2013 9:27 PM

No one could blame Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside if she had mixed feelings at Wednesday’s Modesto City Council meeting.

The meeting came one day after Tuesday’s election, in which Burnside finds herself trailing challenger Jenny Kenoyer by 122 votes, though about 13,000 votes countywide remain to be counted.

Still, it can’t be a good feeling for an incumbent to find herself trailing an opponent she trounced in a previous election.

The highlight of the meeting was the council accepting $43.8million in state bond money to replace the inadequate and outdated Pelandale Avenue interchange at Highway 99 with one that city officials say will relieve traffic congestion, beautify Modesto and promote economic development.

Council members singled out Burnside for her tireless effort to raise Modesto’s profile and lobby state officials for funding for the project.

“I want to give kudos to Councilwoman Burnside,” Mayor Garrad Marsh said. “I don’t believe we would be here today without her actions.”

Council members also praised the hard work of other city officials before voting 6-0 to accept the $43.8million in funding. Dave Cogdill Jr. did not vote because he has a conflict of interest on the project – his firm did work on it before he was elected to the council.

The interchange project’s total cost is estimated at $56.8million. The $43.8million is for construction, and the balance of the funding is for design, right of way and environmental work. Most of the funding will come from the state and federal government, with Modesto contributing $6.1million in capital facilities fees paid by developers.

Construction is expected to start in March and take two years. Work will include building an interchange that will more than double the capacity of the current, three-lane interchange, which will be demolished. The interchange was built in 1970 and cannot accommodate today’s traffic volumes.

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