FRESNO – Highway 99, the San Joaquin Valley’s main thoroughfare, needs $6 billion in improvements to accommodate increasing traffic from the region’s growing population and agriculture industry, officials said Friday. Leaders from the region’s eight counties met at the University of California, Merced, to present a highway improvement plan to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley – a body appointed by the governor to make recommendations to improve the valley’s quality of life. “Highway 99 is the backbone of goods movement for the nation, not only for California – for the nation,” California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Secretary Sunne McPeak said during a conference call. Highway 99 has become congested in some of the valley’s fastest growing pockets, including Fresno, Modesto and Stockton. The route sees between 42,000 and 100,000 vehicles daily, and those numbers are projected to shoot past 200,000 by 2025, according to Mike Leonardo, a state department of transportation director in the Central Valley. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Highway 99 also has a high percentage of trucks, with 19 to 27 percent of the vehicles transporting goods, compared with 9 percent statewide. The improvement plan calls for widening the highway to at least three lanes each way for 274 miles from Kern to San Joaquin counties. The thoroughfare also needs more median barriers, intersection upgrades, longer-lasting pavement and new rest stops, officials said. Neither state and nor valley officials said where they will get the money for the improvements. But the San Joaquin Valley leaders’ united front, coupled with the needs of a booming region, should help them secure the funds in the future, McPeak said. Opponents of the plan say spending large sums on Highway 99 improvements will take away resources from other local transportation projects. But Valley leaders said they were happy they could come together after years of bickering over the issue. “This sets a huge precedent,” said Tulare County Supervisor Connie Conway. “This is our best dream come true.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!