The Highways 41/180 interchange in Fresno appears nearly devoid of cars at around noon on Friday, March 27, 2020. Much of the city has appeared empty of life following the city and state orders to shelter in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

This week in Fresnoland, Cassandra continued her investigation of substandard housing conditions in Fresno, reporting on over 30 renters who have shared their own experiences and how the Manchester Arms situation is not an isolated case. She also reported on new data showing how Fresno County’s affordable housing crisis was getting worse, even before the pandemic.

A three hour journey on two buses to a medical appointment.

A long walk home on unlit and unsafe streets in the middle of the night.

A walk to school through a muddy field and across a dangerous intersection.

For many Fresno County residents, these are their only options to get around.

For 35 years, Fresno County’s Measure C — a half-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation — has dramatically shaped the landscape of metropolitan Fresno.

Although the current Measure C passed by voters in 2006 doesn’t expire until 2026, work has already begun to explore putting a new version of the sales tax on the ballot as early as November 2022.

Fresnoland, The Fresno Bee and Vida en el Valle are collaborating on a reporting project to engage and report on transportation needs of those who are most impacted by a lack of affordable, reliable and safe options to get around.

We’d love to learn about your experiences getting around and how transportation impacts your life. What questions do you have? What would you like us to know?

Click here to fill out a survey to let us know what questions and concerns you have about what it’s like to get around Fresno County whether by bus, car, on foot or bike.

Measure C has historically focused on suburban growth

The first version, approved by voters in 1986, set aside 75% of the total tax revenues for building new freeways. Freeway 41, looming large over downtown and paving the way to north Fresno, wouldn’t exist without the first Measure C. Same goes for Freeway 180, heading east.

And Freeway 168, which enabled much of Clovis’ rapid northward expansion? The “braided ramps” project, also known as the interchange of 41/180/168 that makes you wonder if you’re in Los Angeles? And the ongoing expansion of Freeway 180 to farmland on the fringe of east and west Fresno? Thank the voters of 2006, who renewed Measure C.

To be clear, the 2006 version of Measure C was less focused on freeway expansion — with 30% of tax revenues set aside for that purpose — because a group of environmental, air quality, and trails advocates pushed hard against the status quo.

Transportation equity advocates have assailed the current process, arguing that there’s a lack of transparency and commitment to engaging the county’s working class communities in creating a tax spending plan that works for them.

The Fresno Council of Governments and the Fresno County Transportation Authority — the two governmental agencies that oversee transportation policy and funding — have responded with a community engagement plan that promises to solicit feedback from residents in a variety of ways across the county.

It’s clear that we have significant equity challenges in Fresno County: workers, students, and families who take public transportation still have more than double the commute times of those who drive their own cars. Safety concerns abound for pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists.

We’re looking forward to hearing more from you about how our reporting can shed light on inequities as well as creative solutions to making sure everyone has a safe, affordable, and reliable way to get to where they need to go.

This project is supported in part by the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, where Danielle Bergstrom and Maria Ortiz-Briones are 2021 California Fellows.

Last week in local public meetings:

At the Madera County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 1st, Documenter Angelica Hernandez reported that a large number of rural residents voiced their concerns to supervisors about the implementation of SB 1383, which would impose a state-mandated local program of organic waste collection and other trash services. The Board also approved using $15 million the County received in American Recovery Act funds and $6 million in salary savings to address the County’s $21 million Covid-related budget deficit. The money would also be for programs to help with economic impacts on businesses and households and for the construction of a fire station already in the design phase. Click here for the full meeting.

At the Lemoore City Council meeting on June 1st, Documenter Lorissa Rankin reported that city councilmembers approved a road rehabilitation budget for 2021/2022 and discussed the possibility of a new lessee taking over management of the city-owned golf course. Click here for the full meeting.

At the Madera City Council meeting on June 2nd, Documenter Ramiro Merino reported on the council’s Pride Month proclamation, a proposal from Caltrans to implement a “road diet” along State Highway 145 reducing the number of lanes in downtown, and the city’s $150 million budget proposal. Click here for the full meeting.

At the Fresno Planning Commission meeting on June 2nd, Documenter Heather Halsey Martinez reported that the Commission approved a 63-lot single-family subdivision by D.R. Horton on the northeast corner of West Dakota and North Cornelia Avenues in west Fresno. New Planning Commissioner Haley Wagner, recently appointed by Mayor Jerry Dyer, joined for her first meeting. Click here for the full meeting.

At the Fresno Council of Governments meeting on June 3rd, Documenter Josef Sibala reported that the Highway 41 widening project from Elkhorn to Excelsior will initially be funded locally, until officials are able to secure state and federal funding in future Transportation Investment Plans. Click here for the full meeting.

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