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Improvements to make Hwy 46 East safer could be put on hold

Posted: 10:40 PM, Oct 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-09 01:47:41-04
Funding for major improvements to deadly stretch of Highway 46 may be revoked

5 people have died in the last year in car crashes near the Cholame Y.

Now efforts to make that area of Highway 46 safer, may have hit a roadblock.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham says the state is looking at taking money from making making the area east the "Y" four lanes and instead using it for a railway project.

Tuesday night his office read this letter in front of the California Transportation Commission in hopes of changing their minds.

Highway 46 East near the Cholame Y is a roadway that's worrisome for a lot of Northern San Luis Obispo County drivers.

"Well it scares me every time I go through that area," said driver Russel Andrew.

"It's definitely dangerous," said driver Jeff Scantlin.

The fears are substantiated when you look at the statistics: five people in the last year have died in the area around the Cholame Y and according to CalTrans, this stretch of highway has seen three times the number of fatalities than the state average.

As a possible way to make the intersection safer, CalTrans proposed a project that would widen the highway to four lanes - but now that might be on hold.

"We decided not to fund the project through ITIP or the Inter-Regional Transportation Improvement Program," said CalTrans spokesperson Matt Rocco.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham says an executive order from the governor now has state agencies is looking at using the funding from this $15 million project to go towards improving railway systems throughout the state. His office is now trying to fight back by writing a letter in opposition to the state's transportation commission.

"The widening project east of Y on the Antelope Grade is an important component of having a modern, safe highway system that connects I-5 and Highway 101 and I really think they should leave it alone," Cunningham said.

Cunningham says this potential cut in funding could have rippling economic impacts as well.

"They ship $7 billion of goods along that section of Hwy 46 a year so it's of tremendous economic benefit to widen that road eventually to a four lane highway system with a median highway divider," Cunningham explained.

He says this potential cut in funding would not stop the building of an interchange at the Y. The public is able to weigh-in on this decision before the commission votes by sending an email to: ctc@catc.ca.gov .

CalTrans says while the funding is canceled for this year, the project can go up for funding again next year. Construction was supposed to start in 2022.

The California Transportation Commission tells KSBY: The Commission held its first informational hearing on the draft ITIP today. It will have another informational hearing on Oct 15 in Irvine. Caltrans needs to submit a final ITIP by December 15 for the Commission to consider.