Major sewer line project impacting Oakhurst traffic and businesses

OAKHURST, Calif. (KFSN) -- The flashing red lights and lane closures at the intersection of Highways 41 and 49 are causing some traffic backups for residents and tourists heading through Oakhurst, but Supervisor Tom Wheeler says it's is a vast improvement from when the project started just over a week earlier.

Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler says, "First day it was awful, phone calls, text messages, and Facebook blew up. Nobody was pleased. A few people said it's got to be done, but most of them were very disgruntled. Now it's just, I looked this morning and there wasn't too much, almost all positive."

Wheeler says Caltrans initially required cones and lane closures along the entire one mile stretch of 41 where crews will be working to replace the main sewer line over the next several months. But he and other county representatives met with agency right in the middle of the construction zone on Thursday and were able to get a modification to the plan.

Now the closures will happen in smaller sections -- and for shorter amounts of time -- as the work progresses. That's good news for businesses like Pete's Place, which saw a dramatic dip in sales when the project started.

Owner Pete Kanas says, "For four days we did suffer big time percentage wise. We had 50 percent down business for 4 days."

Kanas says his business has been hurt in recent years by fires, power outages, and government shutdowns that kept customers away, and now the construction is also taking a toll. But he wants everyone to know that his restaurant is still serving.

Kanas adds, "We'd like to see our customers to come back and have no fear of driving through the streets here, and hopefully they will hear us and come enjoy the breakfast or lunch again."

Supervisor Wheeler says the project will ultimately benefit businesses because the improved sewer line is necessary to allow for the opening of three new hotels and the future growth of this community.

Wheeler says, "There's 300 rooms being opened so all these people will be visiting all these stores, all these businesses so hopefully what they lose now they'll gain by the time it's done."

The contractor has until October to finish the sewer upgrade. Officials say they will have to keep the red lights flashing at the intersection of Highway 41 and 49 until the work has moved north of the Road 426 intersection to help with traffic control.

They also plan to keep monitoring the situation and make any other adjustments as needed.
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