Memorial sought for valley transportation advocate

Someday soon, a road linking Modesto to Riverbank could take a subtitle in honor of the man who arguably did more than anyone to advance transportation in the San Joaquin Valley.

Modesto's McHenry Avenue and its northern extension, known as Highway 108, would be designated "Kirk Lindsey Memorial Highway" under legislation making its way through Sacramento.

"It's almost beyond belief that anybody would go to that (length) for us and for him," his widow, Cyndi Lindsey, said. "It's just a wonderful honor."

Kirk Lindsey, 62, died in June after a fight with cancer. He was known for coaching the Beyer High aquatics team for more than two decades, for his trucking company and for a deep baritone voice that commanded attention and respect in numerous civic arenas.

But his tireless work outside the valley as a gubernatorial appointee to the California Transportation Commission promoted local road and bridge projects as never before.

Soon after his death, friends in Stanislaus County government and the state Department of Transportation "thought it very appropriate that we attempt to honor him with a section of highway named after him," said Jeff Grover, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors. Sen. Dave Cogdill agreed to carry a bill co-written by Assemblymen Bill and Tom Berryhill.

More than 700 highway segments, interchanges, bridges and tunnels bear honorary names, often in memory of military or law enforcement heroes or other dignitaries. For example, Ceres' Whitmore interchange at Highway 99 was named in memory of Sgt. Howie Stevenson, a police officer killed in the line of duty in January 2005.

Grover said several stretches of roads were available throughout the county. Lindsey's survivors chose the main link between his home in Modesto and the headquarters of Brite Transport in Riverbank.

Loved the valley

Cyndi Lindsey, a Sylvan Union School District trustee, is active in several civic organizations, as was her husband. When they attended conferences elsewhere, she put Modesto as her base and he would list Riverbank so that both would receive representation, she said.

"He loved the valley. That's the whole thing, right there," she said.

Most roads honoring people stretch one to five miles, said Richard Harmon, Caltrans' legislative deputy. Lindsey's stretch would take 10 miles from Modesto's Five Points to Riverbank.

The resolution has been winding through the Senate and will be heard Monday by the Appropriations Committee. If it stays on track through the Assembly, the resolution could be finalized in August, if not sooner. It would not require the governor's approval.

Local transportation leaders are cautiously optimistic that Lindsey's successor on the Transportation Commission will continue to champion north valley, usually in fevered competition with Bay Area and Southern California urban centers for scarce funding.

They've lobbied Darius Assemi, a Fresno builder appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in September, to support Stanislaus County's North County Corridor when $91 million riding on approval of an environmental document goes before the commission May 19.

Signs reminding drivers of Lindsey's legacy seem much more of a lock, as honorary designations usually are not disputed. But someone would have to come up with an estimated $3,000 to $3,500 to pay for the signs and erect them because the California Code specifically prohibits using state money, Harmon said.

That would pay for one sign at the route's beginning near the heart of Modesto and another near Riverbank. More signs would cost more.

Meanwhile, Lindsey's deep, distinct voice lives on in the outgoing voice mail message at the family home.

"I've had so many people tell me it makes them feel good that they can call and hear his voice," Cyndi Lindsey said. "I haven't had the heart to change it."

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at or 578-2390.