HANFORD — Want to see four-lane highways going north, south and west from Hanford and Lemoore?
Forget about getting the money from the state.
Kings County is only expected to get $3.5 million from the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) designed for capacity increasing projects in the next two years, said Terri King, executive director of the Kings County Association of Governments.
That’s the local agency, with representation from all the cities, that plans for future transportation projects.
On the four-lane wish list: Highway 43 from Selma to Corcoran; Highway 41 from Lemoore to Kettleman City and Highway 198 from Naval Air Station Lemoore to Interstate 5.
That’s a 20-year wish list totaling approximately $1.2 billion — a rough figure based on the $101 million total cost for the 7-mile Highway 198 expansion between Hanford and Highway 99.
To get funding for relatively small Highway 198 interchange projects at 12th and 19th avenues, Kings borrowed ahead for several STIP cycles.
The issue of Kings County’s relative lack of transportation interconnectivity has recently come up in relation to the “Amazon effect,” or the need for growing Internet-based retailers to build distribution warehouses in California close to population centers.
Developers are eyeing Kings because of its strategic Bay Area-Los Angeles midway point, but they are put off by the lack of freeway access to Interstate 5.
So what about passing a local transportation sales tax?
According to King, counties that have enacted transportation taxes — Measure C in Fresno County has delivered more than $1 billion in road improvement projects — pull down far more money in state and federal matching grants than counties without transportation taxes.
Tulare County also has a transportation tax.
But Kings County voters have little interest in putting a transportation tax on the ballot, according to Larry Spikes, county administrative officer.
“My sense is, I don’t think there’s any stomach for doing anything like that,” he said.
Spikes said he’d like to see the Highway 198 four-lane to Interstate 5 project become a top priority.
King notes there has been no public groundswell pushing for a transportation tax the way there was in Fresno, which suffered from worsening gridlock until Measure C was passed in 1986, paving the way for the Highway 41/Highway 168/Highway 180 freeway improvements.
“We don’t have congestion,” she said. “Our issue is safety and economic development.”
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