By Reggie Ellis
Besides people, there are certain concrete requirements for a place on a map to be considered a community. Children need a school. Families need homes. People of all ages need a public place to gather. And people need to feel safe there and all of the spaces in between. A big part of safety are places where people can get exercise on the way to store, children can walk to school and where the elderly can take a leisurely stroll. Sidewalks are an important part of every community, yet many unincorporated communities go without them.
In Ivanhoe, residents say they have waited years for sidewalks, which come with curbs for pedestrian safety and gutters to prevent flooding along the streets, and are essential for community pride because they not only make the streets safer, they also make them nicer. Curbs, gutters and sidewalks were mentioned as the top priority for Ivanhoe when its community plan was updated by the county last summer.
During that process, Tulare County’s Resource Management Agency conducted public outreach meetings in September 2016 to identify what roadway improvements to prioritize. The result of that outreach was the creation of a Complete Streets Plan for Ivanhoe which listed the following projects as the community’s priority:
-Road 160, from Jasmine Avenue to Avenue 332
-Road 159, from Avenue 328 to Avenue 332
-Avenue 328, from Road 156 to Road 160
-Road 156, from Avenue 328 to Avenue 332
-Jasmine Avenue, from Road 156 to Road 160
Known as Complete Streets Projects, these five projects were prioritized by the community for improvements and to be the backbone of a network of streets that are safe for pedestrians, cyclists, passengers and commercial vehicles. About 30% of the design work has been completed on two of the projects, Road 160 and Avenue 328. Mike Washam, associate director of the Tulare County Resource Management Agency, explained that the 30% design is the benchmark for applying for competitive grants, such as CalTrans’ Active Transportation Program (ATP) grant, which provides $123 million per year in grants throughout the state. This level of design puts the county in a better position to obtain outside funding, which means the projects have a higher likelihood of being completed within or near the estimated timeline. The remaining projects are in preliminary phases of identifying the scope and budget of the work.
The first of these projects is part of a broader project called the Community Accessibility Enhancement II. In Ivanhoe, the project will install a crosswalk with a rectangular rapid flashing beacon system at the intersection of Avenue 328 and Road 159. Additional improvements include curb, gutter, sidewalk, ADA curb ramps, and drainage improvements. Construction is anticipated to begin this and the cost is estimated at $100,000.
The Road 160 Sidewalk Improvements Project consists of pedestrian improvements along Road 160 between Avenue 328 and Avenue 332. The project will improve the safety of students walking to and from Ivanhoe Elementary School. The scope of this project includes the installation of curbs, gutters and sidewalks, complete with wheelchair curb ramps and drainage improvements. Construction is anticipated to begin Spring of 2023. The overall project cost is estimated at $1.6 million.
Another project that will benefit Ivanhoe is the Avenue 328 Safety Improvements Project. The project will install left-turn lanes along Avenue 328 at the intersections of Road 112, Road 138, and Road 156 to improve the overall safety and traffic operations. Washam said this is more or a regional project that will benefit intersections in Patterson Tract and Elbow Creek Elementary School. Construction is anticipated to begin Spring of 2021. The overall project cost is estimated at $1.5 million.
Washam said the county has been making some inroads into improving the Ivanhoe area. He said the county worked quickly in 2017 to abandon Azalea Avenue, between Road 159 and Manzanita Road, which bisected the property donated to the Boys & Girls Club. The club then used the larger parcel to create a soccer field in the community. Less than a year later, the field was dedicated to Bob Felts, Sr., who established the community’s first youth center in 1999.
The county also received an award for another project in the community. In January, the county received a Local Motion Award from the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) for nine bike/pedestrian projects around the county, including improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks in front of the Ivanhoe Boys & Girls Club.