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Benjamin Franklin

High-speed rail construction to start in Kings County

HANFORD — The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced new construction work in Kings County will begin Monday and includes overpass, embankment, utilities and bridge construction at Kent Avenue and Kansas Avenue, between State Route 43 and 9 ½ Avenue.

Work is scheduled to continue through 2018. Signs are to direct traffic and pedestrian access will also be restricted. Toni Tinoco, a spokeswoman for the High Speed Rail Authority, said specifically the work that will be done will be to create the overpasses across Kent and Kansas avenues.

The entire high-speed rail project is grade separated, meaning the flow of traffic will not be disrupted and railroad crossings will not be necessary.

Tinoco said there will be a lot of utility relocation and embankment construction work during this phase, so motorists can mostly expect to see trucks hauling dirt and a lot of movement. She said most of the work will be on the side of the road, not directly on the road.

“People won’t see any road closures during this phase of work,” Tinoco said.

Traffic laws will be fully enforced and commuters are expected to be aware of the surrounding activities, remain alert and watch for construction vehicles and personnel. The public is asked to drive carefully and be extra cautious while traveling though the construction areas.

Prior to this work, the most visible sign of high-speed rail activity in Kings County had been the demolition last year of several homes on Ponderosa Street off East Lacey Boulevard east of Hanford. Most of the construction work so far has been centered in the Fresno area.

The work is part of what is known as Construction Package 2-3, which is the 65-mile stretch of high-speed rail between East American Avenue in Fresno County and one-mile north of the Tulare-Kern County line.

The construction package will include approximately 36 grade separations in the counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kings, including viaducts, underpasses and overpasses.

The rail authority website says Construction Package 2-3 started with work on Sept. 18 in Fresno County from Jefferson Avenue to South Avenue, between Cedar and Maple avenues, and will also include work in Tulare County on Avenue 88 at State Route 43 starting on Monday as well.

The schedule of construction work is tentative, but Tinoco said the rail authority expects this phase of work to be complete sometime in mid-2018.

As for how the rest of the project is going, Tinoco said the rail authority has 13 construction sites north of Hanford up through Madera County. She said the work in Hanford will gradually progress to look like the work Fresno is currently undergoing.

According to the High-Speed Rail Authority website, the high-speed rail station in the Kings/Tulare area will eventually be located near the intersection of Highways 198 and 43.

Monroe Elementary celebrates its first Grandparents Day

HANFORD — Hundreds of grandparents marched into Monroe Elementary School's cafeteria on Friday, hand-in-hand with their grandchildren to enjoy an early morning breakfast.

For Victor Estanol and his wife, Ina Emma Perez Reynoso, attending with their grandchildren was all the more special after arriving Sept. 15 from Mexico City, just days before a 7.1 earthquake hit the city, toppling buildings, leaving hundreds dead, injured and buried under rubble.

Lourdes Estanol said the grandparents made the decision to visit after her three children called them asking if they could please visit for Grandparents Day.

“Fortunately they were here and not there during the time of the earthquake,” Lourdes Estanol said. “Thank God nothing did happen and that they are happy and safe.”

Nothing major happened to their house and no family members were injured during the earthquake, but a nearby building did collapse near their home.

“I have grandchildren who live all over Mexico, but they are the only ones who live here in the U.S. When they called asking us to come, of course we did,” Reynoso said. “I love my grandchildren a lot, and they are very happy here, especially with their teachers and their friends, and my daughter-in-law is also very happy here.”

For the children, their grandparents' visit was all the more special after winning their student council elections last Friday.

Ina Lourdes Estanol, a sixth-grader, and Victor Manuel Estanol, a fifth-grader, named after their grandparents, won the school election as president (Ina Lourdes) and vice president (Victor Manuel).

“[The grandparents] arrived the day of the election and that was their gift to their grandparents, letting them know that they had won,” Lourdes Estanol said.

Victor Estanol said that they had not seen their grandchildren in four years, and that it was time they came for a visit. 

“If I would have been in Mexico City during the quake with the grace of God nothing would have happened to me,” Victor Estanol said. “It is very sad what happened in Mexico, but thank goodness nothing happened [to my family] and I am calm knowing that all my family who is currently living in Mexico is safe.”

The Estanol siblings were not the only students that had grandparents visit from Mexico.

Sixth-grade student Miguel Garcia had a chance to have breakfast with both of his grandmothers at the school celebration. One of his grandmothers also flew in from Mexico for the event, although not from Mexico City.

“…when [the school] said we were going to have breakfast with them, I thought that I should invite them,” Miguel said.

Obdulia Sanchez, Miguel’s grandmother, arrived from Mexico 15 days ago. She said they don’t celebrate Grandparents Day in Mexico but she had a great time interacting with her grandchildren.

“It is really beautiful being able to come in and have breakfast and interact with them,” Sanchez said.

Apart from the large variety of fruits, pastries and coffee offered, the school also set up a photo booth that allowed both grandparents and students to take photos. 

Pedestrian hit and killed on Highway 198

ARMONA — A pedestrian who was near the shoulder of Highway 198 was hit and killed Friday morning by the driver of a truck traveling on the highway, according to California Highway Patrol officials.

CHP officials said when officers arrived on scene, they determined the victim, a Hispanic male in his 70s from Lemoore, was standing in the right-hand lane near his vehicle that was parked in the right-hand shoulder of eastbound Highway 198, one mile west of 14th Avenue, when he was struck.

CHP officials said the driver of the truck that struck the victim was driving a 2009 Isuzu eastbound in the right-hand lane closest to the shoulder.

The driver pulled over and emergency services were called, but the victim had already sustained fatal injuries, said CHP officials. The driver sustained minor injuries in the accident.

The name of the victim is not being released pending notification of family.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing, but CHP does not suspect drugs or alcohol was a factor. Any witnesses to the accident are asked to call the Hanford area CHP at 582-0231.