Highway 99 to Interstate 5? KCAG gets grant to plan construction of a four-lane expressway

By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
KCAG obtained funding for the 19th Avenue overpass, which is currently under construction.
KCAG obtained funding for the 19th Avenue overpass, which is currently under construction.

Friday was a good day for Kings County, Lemoore and the Kings County Association of Governments. Caltrans notified KCAG that a $220,000 planning grant application to improve the corridor between Naval Air Station and Lemoore to Interstate 5 was approved.

Caltrans also approved a Transit Development Plan Update grant.

The 198 corridor grant comes on the heels of a plan to create a four-lane expressway between Visalia and Interstate 5 designed to improve transportation flows as well as create jobs and revitalize the economic potential of the region.

KCAG will use the funds to develop a Strategic and Economic Development Plan for the State Route 198 corridor. The grant award will still have to be presented to the KCAG commission before planning can initially begin.

Supervisor Joe Neves, who represents much of Lemoore, was pleased with the news. “With this grant work we can begin on the studies necessary to justify the improvements needed on 198 in Kings and Fresno counties,” he said.

“This is the first step of a long process to make improvements to 198 west to Interstate 5. Lemoore, with an improved state highway system to both State Highway 99 to the east and Interstate 5 to the west and the improvements to State Highway 41 will be well connected from all directions for traffic coming to and from the community for the safe movement of people and products,” he added.

KCAG Executive Director Terri King was pleased as well and has been looking forward to this long-range project. “The State Route 198 study will provide the basic data we need to justify future state and federal funding requests for transportation improvements on the corridor for the benefit of Kings County and the region,” she said.

She added that the Transit Development Plan Update grant will be a significant update to the county’s 2008 plan and will lay out the transit needs of the general public and transit dependent people in the region. It will also identify capital improvements and operating services to meet those needs.

King, a longtime planner and director of the local agency has been the KCAG executive director since 1996, and has been at the forefront of most major transportation projects in Kings County during her tenure and said the agency is the recipient of numerous grants and federal allocations that come Kings County’s way. It is up to the KCAG board to decide where the money can best be allocated. And much of it has to do with economic development, jobs, and increasing sales tax revenues, as well as transportation needs.

She cited the 198 expressway project as vital to the transportation and economic needs of the region. Currently Highway 198 between Naval Air Station Lemoore and the interstate is a two-lane road.

“We got most of it done,” said King in an earlier Leader article. “Let’s work on getting it four lanes all the way to Interstate 5. It’s a long-range proposal,” she added.

KCAG has support from many of the stakeholders. “What economic benefits could we derive if that was a four-lane all the way to I-5?”

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