16th Street congestion going to get worse

The work that has for months slowed traffic on 16th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way will ramp up Thursday, causing further congestion for the next two weeks.

Vincent Valenzuela, a contractor with Construction Developers Inc., said the plan is to keep two lanes of 16th Street open, though crews will close off southbound Martin Luther King Jr. Way on Thursday and force northbound drivers to travel up to Main Street for a left turn.

Valenzuela said G and Canal streets will serve as the best detours for most drivers. He also recommended that commuters consider using Highway 99 entrances and exits in areas away from MLK Way.

He estimated delays of 10 or 15 minutes for drivers attempting to use 16th Street or MLK Way near the construction. “The big thing is, watch your speed,” he said. “If you can avoid that intersection, that’s our recommendation.”

Workers will be directing traffic.

The work will continue through Oct. 24 and could possibly last longer, he said. Crews are paving the center median and reinforcing the left turn lane, he said, to prepare for the expected increase in traffic when the Family Dollar store is complete.

Valenzuela said the southbound lane of MLK Way will also be repaved. “What we’re doing is removing all of that asphalt,” he said.

When the streets are reopened, work will continue through the end of the month, he said.

In July, crews added water lines below MLK Way to catch the extra rainwater runoff, because the shopping center will have more paved parking than it did before construction began. The developer has plans to build a 9,180-square-foot Family Dollar store, but the tenants for two other planned buildings are still in negotiations.

The site was home to the BMC West Building Materials lumberyard for decades. Crews began the demolition of that building late last year.

The other Family Dollar project in town, near East 21st Street and Yosemite Parkway, could be open for business by December, according to contractors.