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Whitmore improvements underway
• $1.9 million road project coming to fruition
United Pavement Maintenance
Sergio Ruvalcaba of United Pavement Maintenance of Hughson was busy doing cement work for a new median in the middle of Whitmore Avenue in front of Cesar Chavez Junior High School on Friday morning. - photo by Jeff Benziger

The city is taking advantage of lower traffic volumes and the closure of schools from the stay-at-home orders to work on the Whitmore Avenue project between Moore Road and Eastgate Boulevard.

Construction crews from United Pavement Maintenance of Hughson were busy adding concrete median curbs on Friday and preparing forms for storm drain collection boxes.

The project involves widening Whitmore Avenue between Moore Road and Eastgate Boulevard with asphalt overlay, and new 10-foot-wide sidewalk with curb and gutter to make for a better and safer pedestrian route. The work also includes installing a new sewer main and sewer laterals, and water services and fire hydrants as well as storm drainage piping. A new center median will be constructed in the section. To improve safety of pedestrians, signage, a pedestrian beacon signal system, solar speed flashing equipment and street lighting will also be installed.

“The main goal of this project is pedestrian improvements for the school children,” said City Engineer Daniel Padilla. “Some students from the apartment complexes, if they’re starting on the south side of the road, just walk in the dirt.”

Students who live south of Whitmore Avenue who walk to La Rosa Elementary or Cesar Chavez Jr. High School often have to walk in mud and dirt close to traffic. Those substandard conditions for pedestrians will disappear with the corridor improvements.

United Pavement Maintenance submitted the lowest responsible bid of $1.78 million. A 10 percent contingency of $178,300 brings the project construction total to $1.96 million.

Construction is expected to be completed before the 2020-21 school year begins.

The widening will bring Whitmore Avenue traffic about 10 feet closer to the front of four residential properties on the block to the south, said Padilla.

“Where students are currently walking, that’s almost going to be in the same spot.”

Ceres City Manager Tom Westbrook said the project have been discussed for years but were complicated by the fact that the southern side of Whitmore Avenue was in county jurisdiction. Also, one owner had to be coaxed in time into giving up 30 feet of right-of-way since the city didn’t pay for the strip of property. But in exchange the owners get free curb, gutter and sidewalk improvements which generally is a homeowner cost.

The work will complement the Whitmore Ranch Specific Plan project which was recently annexed to the city for the development of up to 441 new dwelling units to Ceres south of Whitmore Avenue between Moore Road and Cesar Chavez Junior High School.

The annexation, recently approved by the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (SLAFCO), included La Rosa Elementary and Cesar Chavez Junior High School as well as lands presently zoned for agricultural use.

The plan earmarks:

• 28 acres for the development of low-density residential uses, or 196 single-family homes with an average lot size of 5,000 square feet;

• 6.6 acres for medium-density residential uses, or 85 dwelling units with an average lot size of 3,000 square feet;

• 6.4 acres for high-density apartment or condominiums that could result in 160 living units;

• 5.2 acres for open space, including a bike and pedestrian corridor leading to the junior high’s western boundary.

Westbrook said the annexation was initiated and funded by Steve and Grant Alvernaz, owners of a 20-acre chunk of the project. The annexation was considered orderly because at the eastern end sit both schools which were in county jurisdiction with the city supplying sewer and water to both.

Previously the schools sat in county jurisdiction. The city committed to bring the campuses into the city limits when it originally agreed to supply water and sewer service to them.