Highway 41 ‘death trap’ south of Fresno finally getting improvements. Here’s latest schedule
Caltrans appears to be moving forward on a plan to widen a dangerous stretch of Highway 41 south of Fresno.
On Thursday, the state transportation agency held an open house in Riverdale to showcase the project, which would see improvements to a 7.1-mile stretch of the highway from Elkhorn Avenue in Fresno County to the Excelsior Avenue undercrossing going into Kings County.
The project, known as Excelsior Expressway II, expands that section of the 41 to four lanes. It also will create a 46-foot-wide median while redesigning right-of-way intersections and constructing a new bridge northbound at Murphy Slough. The cost would be just over $53 million, split between local and state funding, according to the project’s website.
The improvements have been a decade coming, despite calls from lawmakers and the public.
According to the project information, “Caltrans identified traffic congestion, high collision rates, and lack of passing opportunities as issues in this segment of State Route 41.”
And it certainly isn’t alone.
The Widen Highway 41 Movement runs a public Facebook group and has been advocating to take the two-lane road to four lanes since 2020 at least. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, dubbed that section of the highway a “death trap” and fought to secure project funding from state lawmakers last year. The project had been delayed over fears that widening the highway would encourage more traffic at a time when the state was looking to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
That same year, there were 22 fatal crash on Highway 41 across all of Fresno County. Seven of those crashes — nine deaths — happened on the two-lane section between Elkhorn and the Kings County line.
Lawrence Simas, a Riverdale resident who attended Thursday’s meeting, said the number of fatalities is reason enough to see the project through.
“I really think it will help. Traffic won’t be passing head-on ... killing each other.”
If the project is moving forward, it is still very much in its early stages.
According to Caltrans, that right-of-way acquisition and design work should be completed by summer 2024, with construction beginning that winter and lasting two years.
At Thursday’s open house, people had questions about logistics of the project, specifically how traffic might be affected.
“The main concern is the issue about closing intersections,” said CalTrans Design Manager Arthur Ramirez.
The project will not close intersections, he said.