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April 26, 2014

Work on bigger, better Pelandale interchange starts soon in Modesto

Drivers using the Pelandale Avenue interchange on Highway 99 can expect more traffic headaches in May when construction starts on a more-than-two-year project to replace the congested, obsolete structure.

Drivers using the Pelandale Avenue interchange on Highway 99 will soon experience more traffic headaches as Modesto launches a more-than-two-year project to replace the congested, obsolete structure.

City officials say the project will be worth the delays and detours. The new interchange will ease congestion, improve traffic safety and provide Modesto with an attractive, landscaped gateway into the city.

Construction on the $54.76 million project is expected to start no later than May 19. Modesto is holding two meetings Wednesday about the interchange. One is for the public to learn more and get answers to questions, and the other is for businesses near the interchange that will be affected by the construction.

The project will more than double the capacity of the outmoded three-lane span, which is to be knocked down and replaced by a much larger highway overcrossing configured at a new alignment with new highway off- and onramps.

The existing interchange was built in 1970, when Modesto had about 60,000 residents and Stanislaus County’s population was about 195,000. Today, Modesto has more than 200,000 residents and the county more than 500,000.

“It was a rural interchange,” City Engineer Bill Sandhu said. “The city has outgrown it.”

Construction is expected to wrap up in early 2017. Drivers can expect detours and rotating lane closures during construction. The project includes building a new overpass and demolishing the old one, as well as work on Highway 99, Pelandale Avenue, Salida Boulevard and Sisk Road.

Sandhu said the city will do everything it can to minimize the impact on drivers. For instance, he said, Modesto is coordinating its Pelandale work with Stanislaus County’s project to upgrade the nearby Kiernan Avenue-Highway 99 interchange. Motorists also can sign up on the project’s website – www.sr99pelandale.org – to receive alerts on the latest developments.

“We are going to do our best to mitigate any inconveniences to traveling motorists,” Sandhu said.

Building the new interchange is expected to cost $41.7 million. The remaining project expenses are for environmental and design work and purchasing right of way. The project is being funded through $45.4 million from the state, $2.65 million from the federal government, $147,000 in fees the county collected to offset the impacts of new development and $6.56 million from the city, with nearly all of that from fees collected for new development.

Modesto has awarded the construction contract to Teichert/MCM.

Sandhu said the project will have several benefits. Besides a less-congested and safer interchange, he said, the interchange will help the local economy by improving the transportation system, making it easier for companies to ship goods and products. He said the project will have a short-term economic benefit from the construction workers spending part of their paychecks in Modesto for gas, food and other necessities.

Modesto officials say the interchange will help the city make a good first impression. It’s the first exit where southbound motorists can leave the highway and enter the city. The interchange has been designed with that in mind and includes what is called a monument sign, welcoming visitors. Its 10 acres of landscaping will feature nearly 250 shrubs and trees, including the evergreen shrub oleander and valley oak and white alder trees.

Sandhu said the landscaping includes drainage basins and was designed to catch the eye as well as save water.

“Most of the plants selected are drought tolerant-drought resistant,” he said in an email. “Most of the species used will require little or no watering once established. Some of the ornamental flowering trees require low to moderate water, however. But overall, it is a very drought tolerant selection of plants.”

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