H-SANTA MARIA

Dec 13, 2013 7:00 PM by April Hansen, KSBY

SM River Bridge Project ahead of schedule

If you have driven on the Santa Maria River Bridge recently you may have noticed that most of the construction crews are gone.

That's because the project is almost complete.

The $34.8 million widening project will expand from two lanes to three in each direction.

Caltrans plans an official ribbon cutting ceremony early next year, but the expanded bridge project is on track to be done several weeks ahead of schedule.

Soon that area will no longer be a construction zone. The Santa Maria River Bridge will have a fresh look for the New Year. Some drivers say it's about time.

"It will be nice when it's over," said Santa Maria resident Jonathan Milder.

"It's annoying. You have to be careful going across the bridge. You don't want to merge into anybody or vice versa and have an accident happen," said Orcutt resident Cameron Plaster.

The project broke ground in 2011. Caltrans officials say this area of the 101 needed an update.

"Everyone knows there are more cars, more tourists, more agriculture vehicles," said Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers.

Shivers says more than 64,000 people travel this section of the freeway every day. He says that number is set to increase to just over 100,000 by the year 2030.

"This widening project is built in such a way to accommodate the future traffic volumes for years to come," said Shivers.

And improve traffic flow.

"It simply increases mobility and improves safety," said Shivers.

Shivers says this piece of highway is an important Central Coast connection.

"Motorists traveling through the Santa Maria Valley specifically Santa Maria have a three lane freeway in both directions and that's something that is going to benefit the community for many years," said Shivers.

Shivers says crews are finishing up the final grinding on all three lanes. He says drivers should notice a smoother ride than what they are driving over right now.

The project was funded by state dollars and local transportation sales tax money.

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