Sidewalks are coming to one of Modesto’s poorest neighborhoods


Kerr Ave in the airport district of Modesto in California on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Construction on a $6.1 million project to build sidewalks, bike lanes and similar improvements in the neighborhood is set to begin this summer.

Modesto’s airport neighborhood — one of the city’s poorest — is getting sidewalks, bike lanes, high-visibility crosswalks and similar upgrades this summer.

This was good news for a family that has lived in the neighborhood for a dozen years. “It’s very important,” the mother said Tuesday in Spanish as her 17-year-old son translated. “Most people here are walking and the drivers here are very reckless.”

The family of five have lived in their current home on Kerr Avenue since November. Family members declined to give their names.

The area is also prone to flooding when it rains.

“I think that would be pretty cool,” a 30-year-old man who lives on Tenaya Drive said of the sidewalks. “My family has been here since I was 16.” He also declined to give his name.

When asked what it was like when it rained, he replied, “It’s swampy there, bro. You must be in boots or have a 4×4 or a boat.

Stanislaus County has $6.1 million for the project.

the California Transportation Commission awarded the county $4.9 million Active transportation program grant in February 2019 for the project. And the county uses $1.2 million of Measure Lcounty-wide sales tax for transportation projects, for the remainder of the funding.

County Public Works Director David Leamon said the pandemic had delayed the project. He said he expects the county board of supervisors to award the construction contract in June. He said construction is expected to begin this summer and take about three months.

About two miles of new sidewalks will be built on portions of six streets: Tenaya, Kerr, Mono, Tioga, Santa Cruz and Empire. Leamon said the project includes about 1.5 miles of bike lanes and nine high-visibility crosswalks. The work also involves Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades.

The neighborhood is bordered by Yosemite Boulevard, the E.&J. Gallo Winery, Modesto Airport and Tuolumne River Regional Park. Half is within county jurisdiction and the other half is within city jurisdiction. Almost all of the upgrades will be in the county part.

The project does not include curbs, gutters and storm sewers.

Leamon said he understands it was frustrating for residents. But he said the project funding can only pay for the transport projects and the new sidewalks will be built in a way that will reduce some of the puddles.

MOD_JBLAirportDistrictSidew (2)
Joan Barnett Lee

He said this project will bring sidewalks to about half of the county portion of the neighborhood.

Leamon said the county focused the project on main streets that residents use to walk or bike to Orville Wright Elementary School and Legion Park in Tuolumne River Regional Park.

The project includes sidewalks on Empire Avenue from Yosemite Boulevard to Tenaya Drive, which falls under Modesto’s jurisdiction.

The city council last week approved an agreement with the county for the project. The city will own and maintain the sidewalks in its jurisdiction once they are built.

The city will also have sidewalks in its jurisdiction built to city standards, which includes curbs, gutters and stormwater drainage. The city will pay for this work and will do so in conjunction with the county’s project.

Still, a city spokeswoman said in an email that “much of the city’s airport area lacks sidewalks and other infrastructure, much like other parts of the city that developed in the county before becoming part of the city”.

The neighborhood dates back to the 1930s, when Dust Bowl migrants from the Great Plains built small homes from mostly salvaged materials, according to a February 2019 article by Bee reporter John Holland. “They didn’t care about sidewalks and such during the Depression,” according to the story.

Little Oklahoma

The neighborhood was formerly known as Little Oklahoma. The neighborhood is now home to many low-income Latinos.

Leamon said the active transportation program is very competitive. He said out of 100 grant applications, 10 to 15 are funded. He said the work of the Airport Neighborhood Collaborative was instrumental in securing the county’s grant.

Although it does not include stormwater drainage, the project is a win, said Edgar Garibay, community relations manager for the Tuolumne River Trust, one of the collaborating members. “This project allows the neighborhood to have a more walkable and bikeable community,” he said.

Leamon said Stanislaus County has received two more active transportation grants since this one.

The grants are for sidewalks, bike lanes and similar improvements in the neighborhoods surrounding Hanshaw Middle and Bret Harte Elementary Schools in South Modesto and the neighborhoods surrounding Robertson Road Elementary School in West Modesto.

Construction of the Hanshaw-Bret Harte project is expected to begin in 2023 and construction is expected to begin in 2024 for the Robertson Road project, according to Leamon.

MOD_JBLAirportDistrictSidew (3)
A child walks around a puddle in an area with no sidewalks on Tenaya drive on Tuesday afternoon Feb. 5, 2019 in the airport area of ​​Modesto, California. Last week, the Stanislaus Council of Government (StanCOG) approved the acceptance of a $4.9 million grant from the Active Transportation Program (ATP), a state-funded program primarily for construction projects. bicycle and pedestrian safety in the S Modesto airport area. Joan Barnett Lee

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Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general missions for The Modesto Bee. He graduated from San José State University.

Edward K. Thompson