Tag: 99

CA-99 Widening Defunded – Where is the Money Going?

Two weeks ago, CBS47 lobbed the following headline: Gov. Newsom redirects gas tax money to fund railway systems, not highways.

Unfortunately, the reporting was pretty light on details. Where is the money going? Where did the money even come from? CBS got the following statement from Caltrans:

The state is confronting the climate crisis head on. In doing so, Caltrans will use available transportation dollars to prioritize projects that manage congestion and reduce vehicle miles traveled in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Those who claim the state is canceling projects funded by gas tax dollars are incorrect. Aligning climate goals with transportation goals requires new thinking, not obstructionism. Click to read more!

Fresno’s First Tesla Supercharger About to Open

In November I reported that Fresno was finally getting a Tesla Supercharger – high speed electric chargers that can “refuel” a Tesla in 30 minutes. Although originally scheduled for 2015, Tesla missed that goal, although it looks like they’re about ready to open up.

Let’s take a look:

The Supercharger is being installed at Herndon and CA-99, in a new shopping center anchored by Target.

Conveniently placed by plenty of electricity, see the green fence in the background?

Peeking over the fence, here’s what it looks like now, with 10 charging stalls (one didn’t fit in the shot):

Still some minor work left.

Up close:

Stepping back, you can see the site is currently fenced off. However, note that little shed? (Not the ATM)

There’s some heavy duty equipment inside:

Tesla puts these superchargers in shopping areas because while they’re faster than a standard plug (30 minutes vs 8 hours), it’s still much slower to charge than pump some gas. Tesla occupants need something to do while they wait.

Target is a hike across the asphalt.

Some other food places to the right:

And to the left:

My personal favorite, Robertito’s is at the far end of the center. A quick 5 minute walk which seems like miles in the endless burning hot asphalt (thinking of Fresno summers). Most Tesla drivers will probably drive to it and use the drive-thru.

There’s also a McDonald’s and Panda.

Note that Telsa superchargers only work with Tesla vehicles.

While the charger won’t be a huge help for Fresno residents, it will incentive more Tesla owners to use CA-99 rather than I-5 when coming up the valley, and hopefully stopping at more places than this soulless strip mall – such as downtown.

Speaking of soulless, I have another post coming up looking at how this shopping center and the new one on Friant do when it comes to bicycle parking.

Hint: Not well.

Fresno is finally getting a Tesla Supercharger

Over the past few years, I’ve posted about how Fresno is severely lacking in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. It’s especially disturbing because the state has put so many incentives in place, and yet, instead of deploying the chargers where the worst air quality is, they’re all installed in the Bay Area or LA. Three years ago, there were a grand total of zero public chargers in the area. Fortunately, that has improved. Now, Fresno State offers public chargers, and there are a few others scattered across town.

However. one of the biggest backers of electric vehicle chargers has been Tesla, and they’ve been MIA. They have been deploying a network of proprietary “superchargers” nationwide to help sell their cars:

Superchargers are free connectors that charge Model S in minutes instead of hours. Stations are strategically placed to minimize stops during long distance travel and are conveniently located near restaurants, shopping centers, and WiFi hot spots. Each station contains multiple Superchargers to help you get back on the road quickly. 

Although the original intention was to act as fueling stations along long-distance route, Tesla quickly began saturating markets with them.

This March, I noticed that as their network kept expanding, there was one giant hole – you guessed it, the Central Valley. Only a single station on I-5 between San Francisco in LA.

Forget serving the Fresno market – Tesla didn’t even appear interested in servicing 99 or even the massive market of people driving to the national parks.

It looks like that will change within the next month.

Look closely and you’ll see that the Tesla map now features a grey “coming soon” icon in the Fresno area.

 photo charger1_zps96cuoem3.png

Additional snooping has revealed the exact location – At Herndon and 99, in the new strip mall.
 photo charger2_zpsonyw1sqn.png

Electric cars may be green, but massive parking lots are anything but

  photo charger4_zpsylc3gw34.png

It’s a surprising location. While it serves the 99 market well, it’s not ideal for folks going to Yosemite, Sequoia, or China Peak. The ideal location, of course, would be in the downtown triangle, where all the freeways meet. A secondary location would be Fashion Fair, right off 41, or River Park.

 photo charger3_zpsshjzifsf.png

This new center is a bit isolated, but it is better than nothing. It is certainly good to see that the folks at Tesla finally discovered the center of the state. Maybe one of them tried to drive to Sequoia and realized they wouldn’t be able to make the trip.

Construction has yet to begin, so it is unknown if it will be up and running before the holiday travel season.

It would be nice to see additional stations in the future. Aside from downtown, River Park, and Fashion Fair, the 180 and Temperance area would be a good choice, along with 168 and Temperance near the Clovis Hospital.

Visalia votes for sprawl

The Fresno Bee reports that the Visalia City Council voted to move forward with an update to their growth plan. The update will divert focus from their downtown to new commercial strips on what is currently agricultural land.

I thought this quote was particularly amusing





a cue from some of the mistakes Fresno made related to Blackstone,” he
said. “Once you open the barn door, all of the cattle leave and you can’t
get them in the barn again.” 
Click to read more!

Confused about HSR routing through Fresno

I’m a big supporter of the planned High Speed Rail (HSR) line in California, but one thing I was thinking of recently was the curious lack of options given for the routing through Fresno. The only real question was station location, but beyond that, it seemed to be set in stone that the line would run alongside 99….and require hundreds of millions in costs associated with running the length of an urbanized area.

At first, it makes sense. When it comes to transportation corridors, 99 is pretty much the biggest one here. On top of that, it runs next to a very wide Union Pacific line. The problem is, UP is not friendly to passenger rail, and won’t allow any of their space, even the portion the is empty, to be used by anyone else.

That means the routing along 99 will involve the demolition of a whole bunch of businesses (although mostly blighted, industrial types), and the reconstruction of many, many bridges over the freeway and rail lines. Further, the plan somehow involves moving all of 99 for an entire section ( a couple of miles or so), and there’s also the issue of the impact to the zoo and Roeding Park (and moving Golden State too).

But I think there’s a very obvious alternative, one which apparently wasn’t really discussed.

During the project planning phases, many alternative routings were chosen for each section, but for the Fresno-Madera segment, the only alternatives were north of Herndon.



I agree that the HSR line should hit downtown. But what’s interesting about Fresno is that downtown is not the center, but more like a corner. That means, there’s a whole lot of “nothing” just a mile or two away.

Here you can see the developed areas, the rural areas, the proposed HSR routing (in blue) and the station (in black). That green area to the north of downtown, by the planned routing, is Roeding Park and the Chaffee Zoo.


But you can also see that 99 isnt the only transportation corridor in the area. There’s also the recent highway 180.

So what would happen if HSR was routed into downtown, and then right back out…? The line could then run alongside 180, and then turn north along a rural road, possibly saving hundreds of millions in land costs, evictions, demolitions and freeway reconstruction. The route would join the planned one in Madera County, north of Herndon


I’m just curious about why such a routing was not seriously considered. I think it sort of makes sense, even if the curves would add 30 seconds or whatever the the trip.

There’s also one other option, one which moves the station out of the downtown core, but takes advantage of an existing transportation center which is still close to downtown Fresno – Chandler Airport.

Chandler looks like it’s in a rural area….


But it’s less than 1.5 miles from the proposed site of HSR, in the heart of downtown


And all that stuff, like car rental, parking, security, etc? Lots of room at this small airport.


When it comes to affects on the urban area, this other location would have remarkably few.


Again, just curious as to why the routing has always been on the 99, and nothing else. Seems odd that they wouldn’t try and lower the cost by routing into the countryside. Chandlet wouldn’t be my number 1 pick for a location, but it would have amde sense to study it.

Rail fares are worth it for the safety benefits alone

This past weekend, I attended a college football game at the LA Coliseum with family to watch USC beat UCLA by an enormous margin. With a kickoff at 7:15pm, the game didn’t end until around 10:30pm. That means we did not hit the highway to leave LA until 11:30pm, for the 4 hour drive back to Fresno.

During that drive, a realization hit me like a wall. A wall of fog. Bad fog. Those who think it gets foggy in San Francisco or London have no idea what it’s like to experience the Central Valley’s Tule fog, which can decrease visibility to zero.

The visibility in Tule fog is often less than 1/8th of a mile, about 600 feet, but can be less than 10 feet. Visibility can vary rapidly in any area, with sudden decreases to near zero in only a few feet. It is situations like these that often lead to multi-car accidents where one car follows another into a fog bank.


It’s hard to understand what zero visibility means until you’ve actually been in it. And what’s worse, these aren’t brief patches. The thick fog can cover the entire valley, essentially the length of 99.

In our case, it meant driving on a highway, with already reduced visibility due to it being night, that was like a racing video-game from 1984.

This red line is as far as we could see. I know, because we could only see a single white lane-dividing line at a time.


In practice, it meant looking into this.


I tried to take a picture, but it turns out that it was very hard to do so. During a gap in the fog, I was able to take this picture.


That’s right, that’s a lighter patch of fog, as you can actually see other cars. Two of them anyway. You’ll note the car in the left lane is tapping its brakes, as there is a car in front of it which we can’t see.

It’s easier to take pictures during the day. Here are some I took back in January of this year at around 6am showing how poor the visibility can be even when the sun is out. Again, imagine the pitch darkness of the agricultural valley at 3am.

Under an overpass, see the other car?


Signs are useless, where’s the exit?


This is why California places traffic signals on both sides of an intersection. The far-side light is simply not visible. I also learned why California places streetlights at highway exits. Without them, it would have been impossible to know at what point the exit began.


We got home last weekend at 3:30am. The 4 hour drive wasn’t terribly long, but it was nerve-wracking, and potentially fatal. We passed these sections of the highway:

In February 2002, two people were killed in an 80-plus car pile-up on State Route 99 between Kingsburg and Selma. The visibility at the time of the accident was zero. On the morning of November 3, 2007, heavy tule fog caused a massive pile-up that included 108 passenger vehicles and 18 big rig trucks on Northbound State Route 99 between Fowler and Fresno. Visibility was about 200 feet at the time of the accident. There were two fatalities and 39 injuries in the crash. Click to read more!