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Weak spot in freeway poses risk

Courtesy of Thomas Baird A portion of fence along State Route 99, between the Cleveland Avenue interchange and the I Street exit, near the Arbor Vitae Cemetery, has been driven through multiple times, according to Madera resident Thomas Baird.


A Madera man is trying to make the public aware of what he believes is a poorly-protected segment of freeway, which, he claims, poses a great risk to people using the road.

According to Madera resident Thomas Baird, the stretch of State Route 99-South, between the Cleveland Avenue interchange and the I Street exit, near the Arbor Vitae Cemetery, is poorly protected along the right side. The barrier there is only a chain-link fence, which Baird claims has been driven through by motorists multiple times. The road in this section contains a gradual curve, and Baird says that drivers can easily veer or be forced off the road, and though the fence.

“People have driven off the freeway down there probably the 35 years that we’ve lived in this house,” Baird said. “I would say that there is about three to five occurrences a year.”

Baird, a retired master sergeant with the California Air National Guard, lives in the 1000 block of Riverview Drive, adjacent to the freeway. There was previously a grove of oleander trees along the fence, but these trees have since been cut down, he said.

“You really didn’t see it, so I wasn’t really conscious of it that much,” Baird said. “But as the oleanders have gradually been ground off, or knocked down, or torn out, and not replaced, there are a few of them still there. It became very obvious that was pretty much the only protection to keep them from coming through the fence. And even that isn’t there.”

Last month, Baird said, a motorist went off the road and went through some of the remaining trees, and through the fence. Several days later, a large truck went through the fence again. No one was harmed during either occurrence, but Baird believes that it’s only a matter of time until someone is seriously injured, or even killed.

“With that many incursions into I Street, it’s clear that one of these days, somebody’s going to connect,” Baird said.

According to Baird, the problem could be mended by a concrete barrier. Baird has also stated that while a K-rail may not fix the issue entirely, it would provide a significant improvement in the protection of the neighborhood’s residents. Baird wrote to the California Department of Transportation’s Fresno office in 2014, but Caltrans rejected his request and he has yet to see any initiative to add any other guard between the freeway and the neighborhood, other than repairing the already existing fence.

“One of these days, I’m afraid somebody will come off of there at a higher speed and elevation, and possibly create a really tragic accident,” Baird said. “I’m afraid it could be me, or somebody in my family.”


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