A biting chill was in the air and some stray raindrops threatened the proceedings … but the rain did hold off and the ribbon was cut to officially signify the completion of the McHenry Avenue corridor improvements.
The ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 11 featured a number of speakers, presentations, kudos to the various agencies involved and a celebration of the successful project.
Master of Ceremonies Kris Balaji, the San Joaquin County Public Works Director, hailed the project as one that saw unprecedented cooperation and a massive public outreach to keep the motoring public informed of the project all the way long.
It included the replacement of the bridge spanning the Stanislaus River and connecting San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, along with installation of stoplights at the intersection of River Road and McHenry Avenue outside Escalon. Also, the SSJID canal bridge was replaced and improvements and widening were conducted along a 1.1 mile stretch of McHenry.
Among the dignitaries on hand to speak were Miguel Villapudua, San Joaquin County Supervisor for District 1 and the board chair; Chuck Winn, District 4 Supervisor who represents Escalon on the county board; Stanislaus County District 3 Supervisor and county board chair Terry Withrow and Paul Van Konynenburg, California Transportation Commission (CTC) Commissioner.
Villapudua noted that the McHenry Avenue-River road area “serves as a vital corridor” through the region and the project completion will help strengthen economic growth in the area.
Balaji added that, during construction, the original four-way stop signs were taken out at the River-McHenry intersection and a bean-a-bout installed, the first of its kind in the state, named for its kidney bean shape.
He said some people indicated their preference for keeping the bean-a-bout in place as opposed to installing the signal lights.
Supervisor Winn noted that the “four-way stop was a disaster” as it backed traffic up all ways. He also praised those who were involved in the overall effort to replace the bridge and make the subsequent roadway improvements.
“It is one of the most ingenious and renowned projects I’ve ever seen,” Winn said.
Spanning two counties, Balaji admitted there were many moving parts and plenty of city and county leaders to work with throughout the many months.
“I want to recognize my dear friend, Tammy Alcantor,” he said of pointing out Escalon’s City Manager. “It takes a lot of partnerships.”
He said there were “no words to express” how much he appreciated Alcantor’s support and work ethic to help see the project through.
“Building bridges connects communities,” he said.
CTC Commissioner Van Konynenburg said the bridge that was taken out had become a liability because of safety and congestion and the new span is safer and will add to the efficiency of traffic flow through the region.
“Thanks to our federal partners, 88 percent of this bridge was paid for,” he noted. “This is the power of partnership and you all share in the results.”
Once the various legislative proclamations were handed out and the celebratory ribbon was cut, a parade of classic cars motored from River Road to turn on to McHenry for a ceremonial first crossing.