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Whitmore interchange project ready to go


The long awaited Whitmore /Highway 99 interchange project is ready to go.

With a contractor selected, state and city officials will gather across from Ceres High School at 10 a.m. Friday for an official ground breaking ceremony. The public is invited to the Caltrans event.

Planning for the project has been in the works since 1991 with city officials and Caltrans working through red tape, funding shortages and significant delays at the state level. Now the work begins.

"I'm excited for the community," said Ken Craig, director of Community Development for the city of Ceres. "It's a great thing for the community and for the region."

City and state officials were elated that bids for the construction of the new Whitmore /Highway 99 overpass and interchange project were less than expected. Caltrans engineers expected the project to cost $22.8 million but the winning bid came in at $16.4 million, a "savings" of $6,394,252.

As a result, the city's share of the project has dropped from $3.2 million to $45,000. That's the amount of money needed for a community identifier - the name of Ceres - to be constructed into the Whitmore Overpass.

The new interchange will vastly improve how traffic flows down Whitmore Avenue, a main artery of traffic in Ceres. Some of the worst bottlenecking takes place in the area of Ceres High School and the Whitmore / Highway 99 Overpass during rush hours.

The project includes widening of the Whitmore Overpass from two to four lanes with sidewalks on both north and south shoulders.

Local streets on both sides of Highway 99 will be reconfigured that will vastly alter how traffic moves around Ceres High School.

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

The project will affect the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on Whitmore Avenue near the freeway. A reconfiguration of El Camino means the west side driveway will be eliminated but the parking lot will expand into what is now roadway.

The project will result in some significant traffic disruptions. The worst will occur when Highway 99 is shut down on four nights while crews set steal beams into place. Traffic will be detoured onto city streets.