Modesto has ripped out the oleanders in the median along a mile-plus-long stretch of North Ninth Street over concerns about blight, poor sight lines and homeless people camping in the bushes.
The work is part of a $579,000 project that includes adding a left-turn lane on Ninth for southbound traffic and putting in a paved shoulder in the median for southbound traffic as well as repaving part of nearby Tully Road. Federal funds are paying for the project, said Mike Sacuskie, an associate engineer with Modesto’s Community and Economic Development Department.
He said work started about two weeks ago and the project should be done by the end of the month.
The oleanders were removed from Clayton Avenue to Tully on Ninth Street. While that section of Ninth Street has two lanes for northbound traffic, the southbound section is one lane. That’s because the city converted the right southbound lane into a bike path a couple of years ago. The path connects Modesto Junior College’s east and west campuses.
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Concrete curbs separate the bike path from the southbound lane, but there are openings for emergency vehicles to enter the path. Sacuskie said the paved shoulder gives emergency vehicles another way to pass cars. “It will give police better access to the entire road,” he said, adding they will be able to make U-turns.
Sacuskie said suspects no longer can evade police by running into or hiding in the oleanders, and removing the bushes gives police a better view of the road. It also is not safe for the homeless to be camping in bushes so close to traffic. He said workers came across encampments as they removed the oleanders, and about a half dozen people came out of the bushes at a large encampment near Carver Road.
He said people were leaving food, clothing, tires, used needles and trash in the bushes. He said Ninth Street businesses and the DelWood Neighborhood Alliance complained about the oleanders. Ninth Street is one of the alliance’s boundaries.
Sacuskie said Modesto has planned to do this project for at least a couple of years and is not doing it because there is one only southbound lane. But Police Chief Galen Carroll said he did not like having just one lane and didn’t like the idea of using the bike path because bicyclists could be wearing headphones and not hear approaching patrol cars.
“It was a safety issue to me,” he said in an email. “There is one lane with no real shoulder.”
Carroll said he was not aware of motorists driving into the oleanders or damaging their cars by turning into the parking barriers to get out of the way of emergency vehicles. Fire Chief Alan Ernst also said he was not aware of any accidents.
Sacuskie said crews are repaving Tully from Stoddard to Yale avenues and will make Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades to the intersection at Tully and Coldwell Avenue.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316