The project to widen Willow Avenue to three lanes from Shepherd Avenue to just past International Avenue is about two months behind schedule.
In June residents in the area were sent a mailer that said the goal was to have the project completed by November 29th, it now looks like it won’t be finished until the end of January 2020.
“We had delays, just like in any construction project,” said Kevin Gross, Project Engineer for the City of Clovis. “If the weather works with us and we don’t have a cold rainy December, we anticipate the project being complete by the end of January.”
The project is larger than just widening the road, adding a bike lane and street lights. Sewer and water utilities are also being installed. For the sewer main, crews have to dig about 30 feet deep.
“Without sewer and water, we wouldn’t be able to grow, so that’s the main objective of this project,” Gross said.
Currently city limits end at Shepherd Avenue. They will soon extend to Copper. Plans are in the works to develop the east side of Willow from Shepherd to Copper and Willow to Minnewawa. The neighborhood will be called Heritage Grove and nearly 600 homes have already been approved for construction.
Gross says once utilities are in, construction could begin by summer.
As for the widening project, Gross says the City of Clovis worked with Clovis Unified, Clovis Community College, the City of Fresno and Fresno County to map out a traffic plan that would allow for drivers to get where they need to go without too much delay.
“With any large project like this, it takes a lot of time,” Gross said. “We feel confident that we will get this done in a timely manner. We appreciate the patience of the community.”
Clovis has been working closely with businesses in the area to try and help where they can.
Willow Gardens is located on Willow and International. The family run nursery opened in 1971 by John and Nancy Deprima. Their granddaughter Danielle manages it now and says the construction project has hit their business hard.
“I was down over 50 thousand in revenue last month,” Deprima said. “It’s 100 percent because of the road construction. People just don’t want to deal with it.”
Deprima says the road work on Willow makes it hard for customers to find their entrance. Plus closures on Behymer and Copper have made things worse.
“You are kind of blocked in on every way,” Deprima said. “I don’t know what to do. It’s going to be a tough winter.”
Deprima said the City of Clovis did help make some signs to help direct traffic and let people know Willow Gardens is open during construction. She’s thankful for the help.
Willow Gardens is open seven days a week and has a Christmas shop full of gift and garden items.
There is some good news for businesses and drivers in the area; crews expect to have Behymer open by the end of November.
Kara Hart has lived in the subdivision off of Willow and Perrin for 12 years. Her back fence backs up again Willow Avenue.
Hart says she can hear the construction, but it hasn’t bothered her family too much. It has added about 10 minutes to her drive down the street to pick up her son from Granite Ridge.
“There are lines leaving Granite Ridge,” Hart said. She says even before construction began she could see cars backed up along Willow in the morning from her second story window.
“I think it’s a good thing that they are widening it,” Hard said. “I definitely hope traffic will flow a little smoother.”
Ann-Marie Kraft also navigates the construction zone doing drop-off and pick-up at Granite Ridge. She says she once saw someone driving into oncoming traffic, but they were able to correct themselves.
Kraft says that while most days the delays aren’t too bad, the morning of November 3rd was gridlock during the Two Cities Marathon and her family was late to church.
“It will be nice when it’s over,” she said of the construction. “It feels like a necessary evil. Will be better in the long run.”