Steve Brandau will make his big pitch this week in Washington, D.C. Success could mean “Forgotten Fresno” is someday turned into “Boomtown Fresno.”
The District 2 council member was scheduled to fly to the nation’s capital on Saturday (April 21) as part of the Fresno metropolitan area’s annual One Voice lobbying campaign.
Brandau’s goal: Find nearly $45 million in federal coffers to help fund completion of Veterans Boulevard.
“It’s truly a shovel-ready project,” Brandau told me by phone on Friday. “We’re going to let them know we’ve done our part.”
That “part” is the commitment of more than $90 million in locally controlled funds for the project.
Veterans Boulevard has been on Fresno’s planning books since the mid-1980s. The thoroughfare would efficiently connect Herndon Avenue with the neighborhoods west of Highway 99 and north of Shaw Avenue. To say that Veterans Boulevard is important to Fresno’s future is an understatement. Yet, clearing the funding hurdle has proved so far to be impossible.
Maybe this is our moment.
“Veterans Boulevard has been on our wish list for a long time,” Brandau said. “But now I’ve got a slice of optimism in me.”
Brandau won’t be going alone. As I wrote in CVObserver on Feb. 7, officials connected to the Fresno Council of Governments have a fairly long wish list to present to the Trump Administration and locally based federal legislators. Brandau said Fresno County Economic Development Corp. CEO Lee Ann Eager, Clovis Mayor Bob Whalen and Granville Homes Vice President Jeff Roberts are among his One Voice colleagues.
Workforce training dollars also will be a priority for the One Voice team. The hope remains high that Fresno will land the bullet train’s heavy maintenance facility.
It was former Fresno Police Officers Association President Jacky Parks who called this part of West Fresno (everything north of Roeding Park to the San Joaquin River) “Forgotten Fresno.” There has already been considerable growth out there. There’s room and dedicated water for much more. The missing ingredients so far are infrastructure (Veterans Boulevard and Shaw Avenue restructuring, for example) and wise planning.
In a perfect world, wise planning and infrastructure precede growth.
Brandau and his City Hall colleagues are tackling the challenges of the West Fresno Area (as opposed to what is now called Southwest Fresno) on other fronts, as well.
The City Council is expected on May 24 to review changes in the “official plan lines” for Shaw between North Polk Avenue and North Grantland Avenue. This is a key step in someday expanding this one-and-a-half mile stretch of two-lane country road into a four- or six-lane arterial.
Veterans Boulevard would feed southbound cars into Shaw at Polk.
Then there’s the West Area Specific Plan. Brandau and council colleagues Esmeralda Soria (District 1) and Oliver Baines (District 3) have long pushed for such a plan. The lack of time and money always stood in the way.
Well, the West Area Specific Plan at last is moving into another stage. The brand new West Area Specific Plan Steering Committee will hold its orientation session at 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.
The committee’s members are Eric Payne, Bill Nijjer, Dennis Gaab, Tiffany Mangum, David Pena, Gurdeep Shergill, John Kashian, Deep Singh, Jeff Roberts, Joseph Maples and Cathy Caples. The alternate is Tina McAllistre-Booth.
Finally, Brandau is not putting all of his Veterans Boulevard funding eggs in the federal basket. City Hall has also asked Sacramento to help with the tab. Brandau said he expects to hear by this Wednesday or Thursday whether Gov. Brown gives the project a thumb’s up or a thumb’s down.
Brandau says of the West Fresno Area’s future: “We have people chomping at the bit to get out there. We just have to get all the infrastructure in place.”