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California State Route 180 Kings Canyon Expressway expansion opening (Minkler and Centerville Bypass)

This morning I took a drive on the newly opened California State Route 180/Kings Canyon Expressway expansion.  The new expressway segment of CA 180 bypasses Minkler and Centerville of eastern Fresno County.   


This blog is meant to be a continuation of the previous entry regarding CA 180 from Frankwood Avenue near Minkler west to CA 99 in Fresno.  The previous Gribblenation blogs focus more heavily on the history of CA 180, all of them can be found on linked on June 2019 Minkler-Fresno entry.

California State Route 180 Kings Canyon Road Expressway and Sequoia-Kings Canyon Freeway


Part 1; overview of the Kings Canyon Expressway expansion project

The new expansion of the Kings Canyon Expressway began to open this past Monday evening.  The new segment of the Kings Canyon Expressway bypasses the communities of Minkler and Centerville which in recent history has been a choke point on CA 180.  According to CAhighways the California Transportation Commission approved funding of the Minkler/Centerville bypass between Post Miles FRE 74.612-77.975 in December 2014.  The initial funding for the Minkler/Centerville bypass was slated for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year and had an estimated cost of $90,948,000.

According to CAhighways in October 2016 the California Transportation Commission approved a State Transportation Improvement Program allocation for a bypass route of CA 180 around Minkler and Centerville via Post Miles FRE 74.1-78.6.  The 2016 allocation by the California Transportation Commission was for $34,665,000.  This allocation was approved a second time by the California Transportation Commission in March of 2018 with no alterations to Post Mileage or allocated funds.  The 2018 allocation by the California Transportation Commission called for a completion of the Minkler/Centerville bypass by August 2019.


Part 2; the Kings Canyon Expressway expansion project during early construction

During 2018/2019 I frequently drove CA 180 westbound through Minkler and Centerville.  At the time the early phases of the Kings Canyon Expressway expansion project were underway.  Construction signage on CA 180 westbound first appeared approaching Frankwood Avenue.


From Frankwood Avenue the eastern end of the Centerville/Minkler bypass was easily observable.




For reference Frankwood Avenue is located at Post Mile FRE 78.00 on CA 180.


Of note Frankwood Avenue/CA 180 is where present Orange Blossom ends at the Fresno County Blossom Trail.  The Fresno County Blossom Trail presently is signed on the old alignment of CA 180 on Kings Canyon Road west to Centerville.  It isn't clear where the Fresno County Blossom Trail and Orange Blossom Trail will be relocated to.

The Schoolhouse Restaurant is located on the southeast side of the Kings Canyon/Frankwood Junction.  The schoolhouse was originally the Frankwood School which was the second school house on the site with the current structure being built in 1921.  The Frankwood School was shuttered in 1958 having been absorbed into the Centerville School District.



 
CA 180 west used to make a right hand turn at Reed Avenue into Minkler.  The photos below were taken early 2018 when Blossom Trail signage was still present.  Fresno was signed as being 19 miles away on CA 180 west from Reed Avenue.




CA 180 west previously passed through Minkler on Kings Canyon Road and crossed Byrd Slough.  Minkler was essentially a rail siding that was created back in 1920.  Back in the hey day of Minkler it was located at the junction of the Wahtoke District Railroad and Porterville-Orosi District Railroad.  The Wahotke District Railroad used to travel north on the Kings River towards Piedra which terminated at a local rock quarry.  Both lines were abandoned in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today there are only a couple structures in Minkler still inhabited.  One of the older buildings on the south side of Kings Canyon Road is known as the Minkler Cash Store  The photos of Minkler below are from 2018.





CA 180 west approaching Minkler crossed the Kings River approaching Centerville.  The early phase of the Centerville/Minkler Bypass can be seen in the photos from 2018 below.







One of the new expressway bridges over the Kings River can be seen this photo below from April 2019.


The expressway alignment can be seen approaching Kings Canyon Road in 2019.  This segment of Kings Canyon Road has been absorbed into the eastbound lanes of the new expressway. .


In Centerville the Blossom Trail turned north off of CA 180/Kings Canyon Road right onto Oliver Avenue.  Centerville actually is one of the oldest communities in what is now Fresno County having been founded back in 1854 as Scottsburg.  By 1858 Poole's Ferry was established as a crossing of the Kings River which was part of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road which had only been created five years prior.  The original town site was destroyed in a flood in 1867 and it was resettled to the west as Centerville in the present location.  Centerville has approximately 400 residents according to the 2010 census but I'm not sure what area that figure actually consists of.

For such a historically significant locale there isn't much left of Centerville.  There are some structures that still line Kings Canyon Road that are obviously from much better times when Centerville was actually important.  Suffice to say the modern traffic from CA 180 was definitely a contrast to the subdued Centerville. 



Back in 2018 I checked out an early phase of the Centerville/Minkler Bypass from Oliver Avenue.



CA 180 west of Centerville in 2019 expanded out onto the existing Kings Canyon Expressway.  The Centerville/Minkler bypass could easily be observed merging into the existing traffic lanes.




While flying back from Portland during September 2019 I fly over the new CA 180 expressway bypass of Centerville. 



Part 2; a drive on CA 180 on the new Kings Canyon Expressway bypass of Minkler and Centerville

My approach to the new expressway bypass of Minkler/Centerville this morning began on CA 180 west at Frankwood Avenue.  Approaching Frankwood Avenue CA 180 west expands out to a four-lane expressway. 





CA 180 west continues to a slightly aligned Reed Avenue.  




Minkler is now accessible via an entrance road from Reed Avenue.  



Interestingly the old signage for CA 180 eastbound on Kings Canyon Road still is standing at what was the intersection with Reed Avenue.  




Part of former CA 180 west on Kings Canyon Road is intact behind traffic gates in Minkler.  Interestingly the scenic placard that used to accompany the CA 180 shield below has disappeared.  


The "Minkler" sign has disappeared on Kings Canyon Road westbound and the "Narrow Bridge" sign has been replaced with "Road Closed Ahead."  


Approaching Bryd Slough Kings Canyon Road westbound is closed at the Minkler Cash Store.  Construction crews west of the Minkler Cash Store can be observed in razing former CA 180 on Kings Canyon Road.  



The new alignment of Reed Avenue can be seen jutting northeast from Kings Canyon Road in Minkler to the new expressway alignment of CA 180 below.  




CA 180 westbound on the new segment of the Kings Canyon Expressway is complete but the eastbound lanes aren't fully open.  CA 180 west crosses Byrd Slough and intersects Piedra Road.  






CA 180 west crosses the Kings River and intersects Rio Vista Avenue.  






CA 180 west continues on to Oliver Avenue which is now the primary access point on the new expressway to Centerville.  






Kings Canyon Road eastbound in Centerville is signed as not having access to CA 180 and ends just past the Circle C Market.  The empty Kings Canyon Road in Centerville really conveys how desolate the community has become now that the traffic from CA 180 has disappeared.  







Kings Canyon Road west in Centerville continues past Oliver Avenue to a closure gate in front of the Rare Steer.  The Blossom Trail shield in Centerville is still present directing traffic following the touring route to turn onto Oliver Avenue. 







Traffic out of Centerville is directed to use Oliver Avenue to reach CA 180. 


CA 180 west of Oliver Avenue rejoins the previous Kings Canyon Expressway at Newmark Avenue.  








As a closing note Caltrans District 6 recently posted a video on their Facebook page of a drive on the new segment of the Kings Canyon Expressway eastbound.


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