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Interchange project wraps up Friday
Delays have plagued the Whitmore Avenue/Highway 99 interchange project to the very end.

Caltrans officials expected to officially open and declare the project complete on March 15 but the event was postponed.

Now it looks like Friday is finally the final event - a 2:30 p.m. dedication on El Camino Avenue between Poplar and Magnolia, southwest of Kentucky Fried Chicken. For the first time the newly configured northbound Whitmore Avenue offramp will be opened.

The project is finishing early since the contract calls for the work to be completed by July.

The city of Ceres began planning in 1989 to widen the Whitmore Avenue to improve the flow of traffic and replace the steep angles which limited horizontal visibility issues. Since a revamp was in order, other issues needed correcting, such traffic bottlenecking and limited mobility.

Local streets east of Highway 99 have been reconfigured that vastly alters how traffic moves around Ceres High School. A new configuration eliminated the old grade-level northbound onramp that forced cars to make a sharp turn and rapid acceleration to merge onto 99. A new sloped onramp for northbound 99 traffic now allows cars to reach freeway speed before entering the freeway.

A new connection has been constructed to link Whitmore and Central avenues via a frontage road.

hat cuts between Lazy Wheels Mobilehome Park and the Ceres Farm Labor Camp. The city is considering buying the park and vacant lands adjacent to it fordevelopment as a retail center. Possible uses for the "triangle" island west of Ceres High School is a park or parking lot.

West of Highway 99, a new connector was added to allow for southbound turns to connect to Railroad Avenue. It replaces a current sharp right hair-pin turn that could not be negotiated by trucks needing to access Railroad Avenue businesses and industries.

When the project went out to bid in 2008, the engineer's estimate pegged the project at $22.8 million. Because business was slow for contractors, the lowest bid came in from Nehemiah Construction of Benecia at $16.4 million, or $2 million under the engineer's estimate. Right of way and other costs brought the project cost to a total of $26 million.