Work set to resume on Modesto’s Bowen Avenue

A section of Bowen Avenue has been closed since May as part of extending the Virginia Corridor bike trail.
A section of Bowen Avenue has been closed since May as part of extending the Virginia Corridor bike trail. aalfaro@modbee.com

Work is expected to resume this week on a section of Bowen Avenue in central Modesto that has been dug up and closed to traffic for more than six weeks. Officials say the road should reopen in a couple of weeks.

That’s welcome news for nearby homeowners. That stretch of Bowen is a stone’s throw from Beard Elementary School, and homeowners say traffic already is bad when school is in session, with buses and parents dropping off and picking up children. They have dreaded how bad it would be if Bowen were closed when school starts Aug. 11.

“When school starts and if this is not finished, it’s going to be a mess,” Bowen Avenue resident Marc Genest said last week. “It’s going to be crazy.”

The road work is part of a $2.1 million construction project to extend the Virginia Corridor – the paved trail popular with walkers, joggers and bicyclists – from Bowen to Woodrow avenues, a distance of about seven-tenths of a mile. Construction workers tore up about 90 feet of Bowen near where the corridor crosses it to take a hump out of the street and make it level.

The Bowen work was expected to take about a month. But workers unearthed two problems when they dug up the street: The dirt could not be compacted sufficiently to make it stable enough to put in the new road, and the Modesto Irrigation District had concerns that there was not enough clearance between the new road and one of its underground pipelines.

Modesto Parks Planning and Development Manager Loren Holt has said the city developed a solution for compacting the dirt two to three weeks ago and submitted a new design for the pipeline to MID on June 3. Holt said MID approved the design Friday.

Holt said the city spoke with the project’s general contractor – Fresno-based Cal Valley Construction – Monday about resuming work this week and reopening the street before school starts. “That’s what everyone is striving for,” he said. “We’re fairly confident.”

Cal Valley Construction project engineer Andy Jenson said the Bowen work should take about two weeks. He said Cal Valley should complete the Virginia Corridor extension in a few weeks. Work has continued on other parts of the project while the Bowen work has been at a standstill.

Jenson said the Bowen fixes include replacing the dirt workers dug up with better dirt that can be compacted enough for a new road and putting in a strip of high-strength concrete between the MID pipeline and the road. He estimated those changes will add less than $50,000 to the cost of the project.

The City Council in November approved spending $2.8 million to extend the corridor from Bowen to Woodrow. The project is being funded by state and federal grants and its costs include $2.1 million for construction. The other costs are for design, engineering, administration and money set aside for unforeseen construction problems.

The Virginia Corridor starts at College Avenue and runs north along the former Tidewater Southern-Union Pacific Railroad corridor. The 10-foot-wide paved trail has landscaping, lights, benches and other amenities. Extending the trail to Woodrow will bring its length to about 3 miles.