Highway 99 on overload, while I-5 is barely used

By JOHN M. DERBY
Times Founding Publisher
July 12, 2018

Last week, as we were headed to Highway 99, a friend called and said” “Stay away from 99, there is an accident with a big rig and it is backed up for miles.”
There were cars and trucks stalled in the south lane as far as the eye could see — and it is a common sight.
We heard later that the tie up on 99 took 3 1/2 hours to clear the debris from the roadway.
Similar backups on US. 99 are common place, in part because Highway 99 is overloaded and yet, Interstate 5 on the west side of the valley is barely being used.
Why would anyone use Highway 99 if they had the option?
There is a reason and it is simple; lack of services.
When Cal Trans planned Interstate 5, it failed to plan for adequate services at the interchanges. Most truck drivers will not use 99 because of it, and people with cars need to be careful they have plenty of gas and provisions for the trip if they are taking I-5.
One would have thought, the State of California could be making millions of dollars on the real estate at these interchanges, however, there is little or no infrastructure for business development. This has made it so expensive to install such things as gas stations and shopping centers. Meanwhile, the business world refuses to pay the price.
Motorists would rather drive the traffic-snarled Highway 99 then go without services. Truck drivers do not have the option. They are forced to use Highway 99.
The problem goes much further. The traffic on 99 adds to the already terrible bad air in the corridor which leads from Sacramento to Bakersfield. Interstate 5 could add some relief, pulling the bad air west where the winds could carry it outside the valley.
The San Joaquin Valley suffers from bad planning. Even “High Speed rail” is not going to solve the problem. Electric cars might help, if there were room for them. With Highway 99 now running at maximum load, the problem can only get worse.
What is needed is that the state provide money to install infrastructure at the interchanges on Interstate 5, and then do a major marketing program to bring businesses to these intersections.
Finally, the people will come, drive I-5, and then eventually trucks will also follow.
Maybe in our lifetime we could see some relief in the overloaded Highway 99. Meanwhile, get ready to sit and wait, and breathe the polluted valley air.


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