End of Visalia road project welcomed by retailers

FRESNO, Calif.

Getting there has been easier of late thanks to the widening of Mooney Boulevard in Visalia from Highway 198 to Caldwell Avenue.

The busy stretch of road went from four lanes to six lanes and took almost four years to complete.

Mooney Boulevard has arguably the busiest intersection in the South Valley at Mooney and Walnut near the Visalia Mall.

Traffic there was horrible just a few weeks ago, but Caltrans crews completed the massive construction project just in time for the holidays.

Shoppers in the South Valley packed the Visalia Mall on Monday to give back or exchange presents from the day before.

Mall management says the widening of Mooney Boulevard encouraged people to come and shop just in time for Christmas.

Construction on Mooney and Walnut proved to be more than a short term headache over the years.

"It's great now. That's probably been the biggest frustration is some of the closures or reduction in traffic," Visalia Mall General Manager Richard Feder said.

Now everything is wide open, allowing for easier access to the mall.

Just up the road on Mooney is California Car Stereo. Workers say the increase car traffic has led to more foot traffic.

"People are wanting to go down Mooney now. You know before it's like 'okay let's avoid Mooney' and 'there's traffic'. There's construction stuff like that," Dalton Miller said.

The nearly four year construction project has had some negative impact on the local economy.

Several business owners have left and several stores along the commercial strip are vacant.

With construction here on Mooney complete, the City of Visalia is hoping the path to profitability is a clear one. And there are signs that new businesses are coming back to an area desperately in need of their services.

Retail giant Wal-Mart announced in November that it will be moving into the old Costco.

Buffalo Wild Wings and the Habit Burger are others that recently opened.

These additions have helped remove some of the littered lease signs, but not everyone is convinced.

Chris Adam is a pest control worker who drives through Mooney frequently for work. He feels that Visalia's population is growing and this new found relief on the roads will be short-lived.

Officials say there will continue to be small construction projects on Mooney next year but nothing that should impact traffic like what has already been completed.

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