Under the backdrop of a giant American flag and the pomp and circumstance of a Fresno road 40 years in the making, several politicians made the case for renewing a transportation tax measure.
The city held a ribbon cutting for Veterans Boulevard on Monday, which will be fully open by Tuesday — including the new Highway 99 interchange. Mayor Jerry Dyer led the ceremonial vehicular procession along the overpass, crossing over the railroad tracks and Golden State Boulevard.
Veterans Boulevard provides a direct route for motorists, from Shaw to Herndon avenues. Mostly six lanes (three in each direction), 70,000 cars are expected daily to take travelers across Highway 99 and alleviate several chokepoints.
“Veterans Boulevard will provide an efficient east-west connection for those living west of the 99 Freeway, often referred to as the forgotten part of Fresno. And we’re here today, all of us collectively, to say that this part of Fresno will be forgotten no more,” Dyer said.
Veterans Blvd Example of What Measure C Builds, Leaders Say
While several speakers praised the effort to open the road, and the veterans it is named after, others took turns advocating for Measure C — the countywide half-cent sales tax measure for transportation projects. Originally passed in 1986, the latest 20-year renewal expires in 2027.
Veterans Boulevard was a priority item when the measure was last approved by voters in 2006.
“That’s exactly why we need a new Measure C. We need it. We desperately need it,” said Supervisor Buddy Mendes. He serves as the chairman of the Measure C authority board.
Measure C provided $42.8 million of the approximately $138 million to fully open Veterans Boulevard. It was the largest single source of funding, which also included dollars from federal, state, regional, and city of Fresno resources.
Others advocating for Measure C included Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Dyer.
“We absolutely, absolutely have to have Measure C renewal, and we’ve got to get that in place and we will. And I’m very, very confident of that, not just for interchanges and grade separations, but for the neighborhood roads as well,” Dyer said.
Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, also spoke during nearly 45 minutes of speeches. While he praised the road’s opening, he did not address Measure C renewal. Arambula opposed Measure C during its failed 2022 renewal bid. And, he declined to comment about if he still opposes a new Measure C.
Voters Reject Measure C in 2022
While Measure C received 58% support in the November 2022 election, it needed two-thirds to pass. Supporters vow to place the item on the ballot again, likely in 2026.
Opposition from environmental advocacy groups remains. Meanwhile, Measure C supporters are holding several meetings to create a framework on how the estimated $6.8 billion for a 30-year renewal would be spent.
There is a divide between supporters and opponents about how much to spend on roads and repair, versus spending on public and alternative transportation.
Although a coalition of such groups formed the official No on C opposition, a post-election survey and analysis of voting patterns — conducted by the Fresno County Transportation Authority which oversees Measure C — showed that racial minorities and the poor generally supported the measure; wealthier neighborhoods generally opposed the tax extension.