As the City of Turlock’s most recent completion deadline for the improvements to the intersection of Fulkerth Road and Golden State Boulevard came and went on Tuesday, a group of local business owners gathered to air their grievances over the prolonged road closures and the severe financial impacts it has had on their respective enterprises.
All of the business owners reported seeing a decline of at least 50 percent in customers and revenue since the intersection was closed on July 31.
“We have nothing left,” said Nirmal Singh, who has owned and operated the Circle J Food & Gas on N. Golden State Boulevard for 24 years.
For the past three months during the closure, traffic coming from Highway 99 east on Fulkerth Road has been diverted south onto Soderquist Road. Those traveling to businesses and residences on Fulkerth Road from east on Hawkeye have been diverted to Dels Lane.
Although the City put up a sign stating businesses are still open during the closure, it hasn’t brought in the traffic needed to keep the enterprises afloat as locals have been avoiding the intersection altogether in their daily travel.
Singh said he went from selling 2,000 gallons of gasoline a day to less than 300 gallons a day since the intersection has been closed.
The gas station is not the only business reliant on daily traffic that has been affected by the road closures.
“When the first sign went up, the first month, it was okay. Then it kept extending, extending; Fulkerth is one of the main streets in town. It’s so dead now,” said Fred Zia, owner of the Turlock Quick Smog, located west of the intersection off of Fulkerth Road.
It’s not just the continued closure of the intersection — first slated to reopen mid-September, then pushed back to mid-October, extended again to November with the City releasing an expected completion date of Nov. 21 — that has the business owners in an uproar.
The businesses owners said they were not notified by the City about the road closures prior to the start of construction.
“It’s a lack of management at the City of Turlock and they don’t communicate with the people of Turlock. You don’t know where you stand,” said Wilson Eshagh, owner of Best Price Auto Sales, located on N. Golden State Boulevard just south of the intersection.
Julio Bravo of Elite Auto Brokers and Sales on N. Golden State Boulevard said it was hard enough to open a new business in Turlock, and then the City closed the intersection diverting traffic away from his location.
“The way they did it, no notice to businesses, just made a decision one day to the next,” said Bravo.
At least two of the affected businesses filed claims against the City for loss of revenue incurred due to the prolonged road closures. Both the claims were denied.
Sergio Gutierrez, owner of the Los Gallos restaurant located on the corner of the intersection, said he was frustrated with the City’s rejection of his claim. He has been vocal about the loss of customers over the past three months the intersection has been closed and appealed to the community to patronize his restaurant through media coverage.
“It helped out for a week and that’s all,” said Gutierrez. “Last Wednesday when they paved, they didn’t give us notice at all and the street was completely closed for six hours.”
Gutierrez expects a huge financial impact if the intersection remains closed during the busy holiday weekend.
Crews were out working all day on Tuesday and the City released a statement anticipating the intersection to reopen Wednesday night.
“The City of Turlock appreciates the community's patience as we increased the safety and efficiency of this highly used intersection,” according to the statement.
The project includes providing dual left turn lanes from all directions, bike lanes and sidewalks, installation of a new traffic signal system including advanced railroad preemption capabilities to allow adequate time for vehicles to safely clear the railroad grade crossing in the event of an approaching train, intersection lighting improvements, pavement rehabilitation and new traffic striping.
The City Council awarded the Fulkerth Road and Golden State Boulevard improvement project bid to George Reed, Inc. of Modesto in the amount of $1,166,617. The funding for the entire project — including the railroad agreements —is coming from federal Construction Mitigation and Air Quality funds, local Gas Tax funds and local Capital Facility Fees.