On the roads, again! in Fresno County: What will this do for air?

It was just a few days ago that I received a Measure C annual report for the 2014-’15 reporting year. Measure C is a local Fresno County transportation improvement “program,” not unlike those in neighboring counties, this particular iteration an extension of the very first Measure C initiative. As a ballot referendum voted on by county residents in 2006, it passed almost resoundingly earning the approval of 77 percent of those who actually took the time to go to the polls and cast their vote or submit such by absentee ballot. On this most recent go-around, a plethora of county-based projects are in the works or in the offing, this program expiring in 2027. Funding for area transportation improvement projects is generated through a half-cent tax on sales.

320px-US_131,_M-6,_68th_St_interchange[1]It should be duly noted, in regard to the annual report, I did not take the time to read the fine print, nor did I pore over carefully every aspect, though I surveyed it enough, I would say, to notice that the overwhelming majority of monies raised are going to support roadway related work. I did not find much on tap that wasn’t tied in some way to roads; though I did see mention of funds related to a rail consolidation proposal, but this is not likely to come to fruition. Perhaps there is funding designated to building new and/or improving existing hiking/biking trails. I vaguely recall seeing something having to do with transit-oriented development, or TOD. But, here, again, the main TOD thrust is tied to the roads.

I can’t help but wonder what with all of the roadway improvement work to take place out to year 2027, if this will result in area mobility becoming more fluid than what it is now. I mean, after all, that is the purpose behind a transportation measure of this sort, right? But, whether or not mobility overall is going to become any less encumbered as a result, we’ll just have to wait and see. Should it turn out that this is the case, then, by extension, there should likewise be some improvement in the quality of local air.

Keep in mind that all the while this is going on, there is something else people should be aware of. Just north of the County of Fresno’s northern border in Madera County, several housing development projects won approval recently. One, a new community to be located due north on State Route 41 right around Avenue 12, will be the site of 6,600 new residential properties (homes). With this, the presumption is that the vast majority of commuters living in this community heading off to their jobs each weekday morning will be Fresno-County bound. Keep in mind also that this is just one of several of these planned developments. And, the County of Madera isn’t the only one in the Valley where new communities are going to go in. If you haven’t already guessed, there are some planned for Fresno County as well.

If Fresno County stays the current course and adds roadway miles the way it’s been doing, and with driving in the county on the rise, one would think that one couldn’t help but wonder how any of this is making – or will make – air quality better.

Take, for example, the reintroduction of a street on six blocks in the downtown core where now stands a pedestrian promenade. A celebratory Fulton Street groundbreaking ceremony along what is currently the Fulton Mall, took place on the afternoon of Mar. 3rd.

With this “re-streeting” project, when complete, what, in 2017? picture cars transiting through what now is being hailed as the Fulton Corridor, people inside those eyes glued to all of the what is anticipated to be then occupied storefronts, the drivers of those vehicles, their attention diverted, themselves doing likewise joining in the gazing activity, juggling between doing that and looking for those prized parking spaces abutting the storefront businesses, anyway, those who are fortunate enough to find a parking spot anywhere along the corridor’s length, will no doubt be angling vehicles in (and then later out of) such parking spots.

To any and all outside observers, meanwhile, who might be thinking that locals don’t seem too concerned about the condition of area air or just don’t care or are totally in the dark on such matters, they must also be wondering about those observers on the inside (Fresnans) as to what their thoughts on any and all of this are.

To get some sense, those “thoughts” are coming in the forms of articles and letters to the editor of the main, local and other newsprint and online vehicles, with documented, concrete examples of how various interests are questioning how any or all of this activity is going to be of benefit to regional air quality, published and presented information at times reminding readers that this area has the worst quality air in all of the United States.

Meanwhile, the Fresno transportation-improvement apparatus charges steadfastly onward; albeit with the limited focus it has, all the while with air quality hanging in the balance.

Is this the kind of future Fresno will be okay with? Apparently.

Image above: Michigan Department of Transportation


Department of corrections: In the previous posting of this article, it was reported that the groundbreaking for what is to be the new Fulton Corridor took place on the late afternoon of Mar. 4th. This article has since been revised and has now been adjusted accordingly to reflect the correction.

– Alan Kandel