Caltrans formally backed off its plans to axe millions in funding for highway expansion projects in and around the San Joaquin Valley on Wednesday.
The agency announced that it would restore $17 million in funding for planning work to expand Highway 99 to six lanes in the cities of Madera and Tulare.
A widening of Highway 46 from the Highway 41/46 wye intersection to the Kern County line was shorted by $5 million.
Caltrans official Bruce DeTerra had telegraphed that the agency would make a move to restore funding during a special California Transportation Commission meeting in Fresno in mid-November.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R–Fresno), one of the more vocal proponents fighting to restore highway expansion funding, celebrated the victory.
“When our Governor comes to town and says he cares about “this damn Valley” we are going to hold him to it,” Patterson said. “This is a major achievement for the Central Valley and shows just how powerful our region can be when we are speaking with one, united voice. We will not be left behind. We will not be passed over. We will hold this Governor and his agencies accountable for keeping their promises.”
So, too, did State Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R–Bakersfield).
“After a hard-fought battle alongside incredible community leaders, I am pleased that the necessary funding for the Highway 99 widening project has been restored and over $10 Million has been secured for Highway 46,” Grove said in a statement. “These projects will help mitigate the public safety risk on these dangerous roadways and help improve our transportation corridors.”
As previously reported, there’s a catch to the funding win.
Valley residents won’t be seeing new lanes on these stretches of Highway 99 or Highway 46 until 2027, at the earliest, according to the Caltrans projections.
It’s worth noting that nearly all of the $23 million restored via Caltrans is set for pre-construction costs on the three projects.
Some of the funding for the Highway 46 project will go toward securing rights of way – i.e. land – for the additional lanes toward the Kern County line along the Antelope Grade.
As for the two Highway 99 projects? The funding restored for both projects will go toward the early stages of planning, developing specifications, and generating estimates for construction.