Those eager to use the long-delayed addition to the Virginia Corridor – the paved trail popular with walkers, bicyclists and joggers – should not have to wait much longer.
Modesto expects the roughly three-quarter-mile extension from Bowen to Woodrow avenues to open during the week of Thanksgiving, which is about three months beyond the project’s original completion date.
Work started in late May and was expected to wrap up in mid- to late August, said Loren Holt, the city’s parks planning and development manager.
The city hit two roadblocks. The first came when workers dug up Bowen near the corridor to remove a hump from the street. The hump was left after railroad tracks were removed years ago. The city wanted a level street so drivers can see people in the corridor as it crosses Bowen.
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Bowen was supposed to be closed for three or four weeks. It ended up being closed for 11, in part because Modesto and the Modesto Irrigation District were not getting along, causing a delay in MID approving some of the work for Bowen. MID was involved because it has a pipeline running under the street.
The two governments are working on getting along better.
The second roadblock has to do with the slope of the trail. The corridor runs north to south and is supposed to have a slight slope from east to west so rain runs off the trail and does not form puddles. Holt said puddles can damage the asphalt and be a hazard for those who use the trail.
He said according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the slope cannot exceed 2 percent. But he said parts of the trail slope at 4 and 4.5 percent. Holt said the contractor the city hired for the project – Fresno-based Cal Valley Construction – has workers grinding the trail to reduce the slope.
“Pretty much the whole trail is out of compliance,” Holt said about the Bowen-to-Woodrow extension. “How did it happen? Basically the trail was put in too high on the east or too low on the west.”
He said Cal Valley knew the slope could not exceed 2 percent. A Cal Valley official declined to comment, saying Modesto has instructed his firm to direct media inquiries to the city.
Modesto has budgeted $2.8million for the Bowen-to-Woodrow extension, with the funding coming from the state and federal governments. The work includes landscaping, benches and lights. Holt said Modesto is not paying Cal Valley for the work to reduce the slope.
The extension will bring the total length of the corridor to about 31/2 miles. The corridor starts at Needham Street and runs north along a former railway line. The final phase of the trail would extend it for an additional three-quarters of a mile north of Woodrow. Modesto has money for the design work but has not yet secured the money for the construction.
In other city news, The Modesto Bee recently reported that SP Travel Co. owner Sashi Pal was arrested on suspicion of defrauding customers out of airline tickets. Investigators said customers lost at least $130,000.
Just several months ago, SP Travel was in The Bee as one of the big names in the city’s effort to bring Los Angeles flights to the Modesto Airport. Modesto and its airport consultant were trying to raise more than $1million in pledges for the flights.
The pledges – which are not binding – were from businesses and travelers who say they would spend the amount pledged on tickets and demonstrate the region’s commitment to the flights. The drive raised $1.5 million in pledges, including $200,000 from SP Travel.
A city official was not discouraged by the latest development for SP Travel.
Steve Fischio – an operations manager whose responsibilities include the airport – said in an email the arrest does not directly affect the pledge drive because it was designed to show an airliner the region’s commitment to the flights.
The airport has not had regularly scheduled commercial flights since early June when SkyWest Airlines ended its daily flights to San Francisco International Airport, citing “poor performance in the market.”
Fischio said the city continues to talk with airlines about bringing commercial flights back to the Modesto Airport.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.