Dinuba bridges gap in support of DUSD safety concerns

The city of Dinuba puts its support behind the school district’s desire to build a pedestrian overpass at Kamm, Alta intersection

Crosswalk at the north end of Dinuba High School located at the intersection of I St and Kern St. (Kenny Goodman)
Crosswalk at the north end of Dinuba High School located at the intersection of I St and Kern St. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published May 13, 2024  • 
9:00 am

DINUBA – As the opening of the new Dinuba High School approaches, members of the Dinuba Unified School District (DUSD) community, including staff and the Board of Trustees, are turning their attention to the next bridge they have to cross: a hypothetical one that would extend over Alta Avenue.

With heavy vehicle and truck traffic passing through the intersection at Alta and Kamm Avenue every day, Dinuba locals are worried about students’ safety when traveling to the new campus, whether that’s by car, foot or bike. DUSD has been interested in building a pedestrian overpass, or bridge, over the road to help ease this concern, but making that happen costs time, money and cooperation.

“We’re trying to plan for safety, but in this respect regarding the traffic in front of the high school and the crossing over, we have to rely on our city government to help us out and jointly pursue funding,” DUSD Area 4 Trustee Mary Villarreal said. 

Anything involving roadwork and traffic control falls under the city’s jurisdiction, meaning the district cannot pursue this project on its own. With construction on the new school progressing rapidly over the past year, DUSD board members have spoken out about their safety concerns and frustrations with seemingly being shot down by the city when they had first proposed looking into the bridge together.

Villarreal said that the board, not wanting to overstep its boundaries, has had limited contact with the city about the bridge, and for a while had only heard that the city was not interested. As of this spring, however, DUSD Superintendent Joe Hernandez said district and city officials have had preliminary conversations about conducting a feasibility study for the bridge, and the city is open to working with DUSD on it. 

“The city is aware that the school district is exploring the idea of seeking funding for a pedestrian overpass near the intersection of Alta and Kamm avenues,” Dinuba Assistant City Manager Daniel James said in a statement to the Mid Valley Times. “If the district decides to move forward on such a project, city staff will support the district in their efforts.”

Hernandez said that from his perspective, the conversation is moving along now, when it wasn’t before, because the reality has sunk in that the new high school is actually happening. Additionally, construction is well underway on the Kamm and Alta roundabout, and so Hernandez said the focus — for both the district and the city — can now shift toward additional pedestrian safety measures.

For the DUSD board, the idea of a pedestrian bridge at that intersection has been forming since about 2016, when the district bought the land the school is going up on. Villarreal said that when selecting the location, the board had the same concerns as community members, but the high school was becoming overcrowded, and there were no viable ways to expand it.

Villarreal said that since 2016, she has spoken with multiple state legislators for Dinuba, and even surrounding communities, who have explained to her that while the city would need to spearhead a project, there could be state allocations and other funding sources available that would ease the cost burden. 

“We’ve been doing our best to advocate on behalf of our students for a pedestrian walkway, and looking for support for a pedestrian walkway with our local government leaders and with the state government leaders, they are willing to help with that,” Villarreal said.

Although roundabouts can significantly increase the safety of an intersection, Villarreal said she is still worried about pedestrian safety, especially because a roundabout means that the traffic is not going to fully stop. To further protect students, the district requested that the city put in flashing crosswalk signs and rumble strips approaching the roundabout so that drivers know to slow down.

Villarreal is less concerned about community members not driving safely through the area and is more worried about visitors and tourists, especially on foggy days. Dinubans have experienced pedestrians in the community — including young children — being hit and killed by vehicles, even when they were in crosswalks, and Villareall said that she’s not going to stop advocating for the pedestrian bridge “because one death is too much.” 

A pedestrian bridge, or even a tunnel underneath Alta Avenue, would make the intersection much less dangerous for pedestrians; however, Hernandez said he’s heard pedestrian bridges can cost anything from as low as $2 million to up to $8 million. Regardless, before any serious conversations about funding construction of a bridge can even happen, a feasibility study needs to happen. 

In the meantime, the district has been doing its own internal research, looking into schools that have roundabouts near them and even visiting a high school in Modesto that has its own pedestrian bridge near a two-lane roundabout.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter