At peak commute times during a given day, more than 15,400 cars clog the McKinley Avenue curve on Fresno’s Highway 41.
And, about 157,000 motorists use the highway — traversing the heart of the city — each day, according to the Fresno Council of Governments.
Depending on conditions and the time of day, the freeway can zip you to your destination or leave you frustrated and stuck in traffic.
Measure C, the half-cent sales tax Fresno County residents pay for transportation issues, helps fund highway projects. The next renewal — currently being pegged for 30 years starting in 2027 with voter approval — is estimated to generate $6.8 billion. Fifteen percent, a shade under $1 billion, would be spent on major roads and highways.
More than $250 million of that is designated for Highway 41 in the current renewal proposal.
While previous Measure C plans expanded the region’s freeways, “MC3” as insiders call the renewal plan, focuses on improving existing infrastructure.
A draft proposal shows $50 million to add an auxiliary lane between Herndon and Bullard avenues on southbound 41 and a new lane between McKinley and Shields avenues on the northbound side.
Other Highway 41 Elements
Other proposals involving Highway 41 in the ongoing MC3 discussions include:
- $101 million in “urban freeway connectors operational improvements” to be shared with highways 168 and 180;
- $75 million for “smart corridor projects” to be shared with highways 99, 168, and 180;
- $50 million for a connector from eastbound Highway 180 to northbound Highway 41;
- $40 million to improve the on-ramp at Friant/Herndon to southbound Highway 41;
- $15 million to improve the Van Ness Avenue interchange;
- $10 million to improve the interchange at Shields Avenue.
The current Measure C expires in 2027.
What Do City Councilmembers Say About Highway 41?
Five of the seven Fresno City Council districts touch Highway 41’s path.
“We need to make sure that we accommodate the population and the traffic. I’m also making sure that we have our fair share of dollars when it comes to our inner-city streets.” — Fresno City Councilmember Tyler Maxwell
GV Wire asked several city councilmembers about future Measure C spending for Highway 41.
Luis Chavez says he is OK with expanding lanes, but the spending formula needs to change.
“I represent neighborhoods that are 40, 50, 60 years old, and we have to change that formula on its head. So I’m going to want to see more money for roads and infrastructure in those older neighborhoods. In the past, we’ve done a lot of freeways, which I’m not against, but I think this time around it’s time for those older neighborhoods to be invested in,” Chavez said.
Nelson Esparza says he is seeking a “healthy balance.”
“There will be differences. And the middle central urban part of the city that I’ve represented for four years now and some of the eastern edge of the city that I’m newly acquired, there’s going to be different preferences and different needs. So it’s really a matter of voting on finding a balance where we need to be as a district and as a city,” Esparza said.
Miguel Arias warns of Highway 41 expansion. He said its previous buildout “ruined a lot of neighborhoods.”
“What we need to do is encourage alternative modes of transportation, for those of us who want to be able to ride your bike to work, you want to be able to take the public transit.” — Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias
“We would end up looking at more traffic jams like they’ve seen in L.A. They continued to add lanes on every freeway and the traffic jams continue to get worse. What we need to do is encourage alternative modes of transportation, for those of us who want to be able to ride your bike to work, you want to be able to take the public transit. We have to get more folks who want to use alternative modes up and down our city,” Arias said.
Tyler Maxwell says the highway needs to continue clean-up and landscape efforts, which are a focus of Mayor Jerry Dyer’s Beautify Fresno program. He wants to make sure a “fair share” is spent on highways and elsewhere.
“We definitely need the lion’s share. We need to make sure that folks are able to get to where they need. Fresno’s a big city,” Maxwell said. “We need to make sure that we accommodate the population and the traffic. I’m also making sure that we have our fair share of dollars when it comes to our inner-city streets. That we get a fair share of dollars when it comes to our transit-oriented development, when it comes to our public transportation, which I’m not confident we have just yet.”
On the Ballot in November or 2024?
The timing of a ballot measure on whether to extend the sales tax is a matter of widespread community debate.
Supporters want the renewal on the November ballot.
However, many community groups want to wait until 2024, allowing more time to author a proposal that they say is more equitable to disadvantaged communities and funds a broader array of transportation and infrastructure needs.
The Fresno City Council will soon debate whether to join the opponents in asking for a two-year delay.
Two government agencies are in charge of the renewal project. The Fresno Council of Governments plans a final vote on the Measure C renewal by June 30. The Fresno County Transit Authority plans the same by July 20.
It will be eventually up to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to place the measure on the ballot. They have until Aug. 12.
Whether it is on the ballot in November or 2024, voters would need to approve Measure C by a two-thirds margin for it to be extended.
Read City Council PowerPoint Presentation
The following is a presentation scheduled for the Thursday, June 16 Fresno City Council meeting.