Construction of a new state Department of Justice regional crime lab will begin Dec. 10 on the campus at California State University, Fresno.

A ground lease is in place to allow construction of the $11.4 million, state-of-the-art lab at the northwest corner of San Ramon and Woodrow avenues. The building will replace the state’s existing lab at Cedar and Bullard avenues, which also is on university land.

Zumwalt Construction Co. is the contractor for the 36,700-square-foot building. The project will be administered through the state Department of General Services and is expected to be completed in spring 2003.

Harvey Wallace, chairman of the Department of Criminology at Fresno State, said placement of the lab on the campus is “a great marriage of real world and academics.”

“We have every expectation that our undergraduate and graduate criminology students will be involved in different aspects of forensics in the crime lab,” he said. Fresno State students have served internships in the existing lab over the years.

Bruce Palmer, laboratory director, said he anticipates an expanded internship program with Fresno State. And lab staff may be available to teach courses for graduate students. The new building includes a teaching lab, separate from the evidence analysis area, he said.

“We’re hoping we will have a much-expanded role with the university,” said Palmer.

The crime lab, one of 11 Department of Justice labs in the state, collects and analyzes criminal evidence for law enforcement agencies in Fresno and surrounding counties, Palmer said.

A staff of 31 examines evidence that includes blood alcohol, controlled substances, DNA, latent fingerprints, hair, fibers, glass, firearms, arson and explosives. Scientists also go to crime scenes and clandestine labs to collect and analyze evidence.

The crime lab will be part of the third component of a developing science center on the northeast side of the campus. A Science Building has been open since October 1976. The Downing Planetarium opened in 2000 just west of the crime lab site. Construction on a new classroom building called Science II is expected to begin in 2003.

Construction work on the crime lab will necessitate a temporary road closure beginning Dec. 21 on San Ramon, from Woodrow to Maple avenues. A detour will be provided through Parking Lot J, which is just south of San Ramon and east of the Science and Peters buildings.