The Plaza Drive Exit is the first exit drivers encounter as they get off Highway 99 and head east on 198 towards Visalia. City officials are hoping a $26-million reconstruction of the interchange and Plaza Drive itself will not only beautify the area, but make way for new businesses.
For more than ten years, the City of Visalia has been working on expanding the Plaza Drive interchange at Highway 198. In three weeks, construction of the project will finally begin.
"We're going to be widening the bridge over State Highway 198 from 3 lanes to 7 lanes. The on ramps and off ramps will also get widened and improved," said city engineer Adam Ennis.
The project also includes the construction of several auxiliary lanes, plus the widening of Plaza Drive between Airport Drive and Goshen Avenue. Plaza Drive is the main artery from Highway 198 to Visalia's industrial park, which city officials say is constantly growing.
Right now, though, they say terrible traffic is hindering many truckers and other drivers. "Right now the industrial park the congestion is real bad out there, especially during peak traffic times. A lot of traffic backing up quite a bit a lot of delays things like that so this should really improve that situation out there," said Ennis.
The city is still finalizing architectural designs for the overpass but right now. A community group has come up with this rendering, hoping to provide a beautiful sign to as drivers enter Visalia.
"It displays Visalia as kind of an entry way to the Sierras," said project manager Fred Lampe.
The City of Visalia paid roughly $3-million in the design of the Plaza Drive project. The rest of the $26-million is coming from several state and federal transportation grants.
While the end result is supposed to greatly improve traffic concerns for the area, drivers still have mixed views on the project.
"There's not that much traffic on it where it would justify that kind of money I'd rather see it go to more important things," said William Whitney of Visalia.
"It sounds like a good plan as a driver I know there's a lot of trucking that goes on in the area and so I think congestion is a reality and having more lanes will help ease that problem and bringing more businesses is always good," said Peter Celum of Fresno
The project will take about a year and a half to complete.