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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 1:38 am | Fair 43º

 
 
 
 

Highway 101 Widening Project Dodges State Budget Bullet

The Legislature's approval of a long-overdue budget averts a stop-work order for the construction — and a possible SBCAG loan.

Construction on Santa Barbara County’s biggest project, the widening and improvements on Highway 101 between Hot Springs Road and Milpas Street, will continue to receive Caltrans funding as a result of the Legislature’s passage of a long-overdue budget Thursday. State funding for the project had nearly been exhausted and the lack of money had threatened to halt the work as early as this week.

Board members of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments had planned to meet Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of lending Caltrans up to $2 million in Measure D funds to keep the project on track. Caltrans had estimated it would cost nearly $400 million to halt and later resume work on bond-funded transportation projects statewide. For the Hot Springs-Milpas construction, it would’ve cost as much as $5 million.

The widening project is one of the largest undertaken by Santa Barbara county, with construction costs hovering around $53 million.

Talk of a Measure D loan was a moot point after the budget passed, said Gregg Hart, government affairs coordinator for SBCAG.

“Caltrans district director Rich Krumholz told the SBCAG board that he had been told the project would now have secure funding through at least this fiscal year,” Hart said.

Hart said SBCAG will continue to negotiate terms of a loan agreement should the scenario present itself again. But for now, board members are excited construction is still under way.

“The board was relieved to hear the good news and we’re just glad to see the project move forward, full speed ahead,” he said.

The budget news is significant for projects statewide, nearly 400 of which were on the verge of being suspended Thursday. The Legislature finally approved a package, which includes spending cuts, tax increases and borrowing, to cover the state’s $40 million deficit after it passed by a margin of one vote, from state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria. Now that the Assembly has also passed the budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign it shortly.

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