Visalia Highway Renovation Controversy

July 16, 2008 9:27:11 PM PDT
A busy south valley highway is getting a major renovation-but not without complaints from local businesses. Mooney Boulevard runs right through the heart of Visalia.Pretty much every day you can expect Mooney Boulevard also known as Highway 63 in Visalia to be packed with drivers trying to get to one of the many businesses along the roadway. Caltrans began its construction to expand the highway from four to six lanes with hopes to reduce congestion and improve safety.

Tami Conrado, Caltrans: "I really believe it's just beneficial to commuters, local businesses along Mooney Boulevard to maintain a better flow of traffic."

While most agree expanding the highway will do a lot of good, many companies say their business has gone down since the construction began.

Some business owners believe these orange cones blocking the right turn lane here on Mooney Boulevard can confuse drivers into thinking that driveways leading into businesses are blocked off when they're actually open.

Alex Smith, Driver: "When I went down Mooney I was heading down to the blood bank to donate blood and I thought I couldn't get in there because it was blocked off and I actually passed it and then came back and saw that it was open and saw that I was able to get into it."

The owner of this 7-11 says since construction began three weeks ago, the store has had one thousand fewer customers, leaving the business in financial trouble.

This Subway along Mooney is losing several hundred dollars each night and managers blame the construction.

Debbie Nell, Subway: "Everything all the cones in the road all the signs in the road and people aren't wanting to deal with the mess."

Both business managers say summer is their busiest time of year. Caltrans officials say they're trying to work mostly at night to avoid conflicts with businesses. Soon they'll begin constructing new sidewalks and building new bus stop turn-outs.

Conrado: "So the Visalia City Buses will be able to completely be off the roadway to make their bus stops that really helps to maintain the constant flow of traffic."

Caltrans will have a public meeting before workers begin the next phase of the project in August. The meeting will be at the Visalia Mall.
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