Plea made for Highway 46 project
November 28, 2019 | View PDF
A group of local dignitaries hit the road recently to fight for completing the widening of Highway 46.
They made an appearance in Fresno at a California Transportation Commission hearing to discuss plans that Caltrans has of cancelling funding for a project that was previously given the go-ahead that involves widening Highway 46.
The first phase of the project has been completed, but the second phase is ready to go but the funds are in danger of being pulled off the project for an unidentified future rail project. David Couch, county supervisor in the 4th District covering Shafter and Wasco, testified at the hearing, as well as Shafter City Council member Cathy Prout.
Couch told the commission that the funds needed for the completion of the Highway 46 is more than just the widening of the highway. Couch said, “As you know, people are dying every year on Highway 46. We maintain that withholding funds for a future project that is not even ready to go does nothing to alleviate this problem.”
Couch also said that the project will provide a more sustainable goods movement corridor that connects Salinas Valley with an intermodal rail facility in Delano operated by Union Pacific. It is said that shipping by rail is 10 times more energy efficient and creates 10 times less greenhouse gases than shipping by truck but we need safer roads that connect these intermodal rail facilities.
The project in question is the Highway 46 segment 4B, which is a 5-mile safety widening project with bike and pedestrian improvements through the disadvantaged community of Lost Hills. This project leverages $17.5 million in federal BUILD grant funding. Another $33 million is still needed to complete the gap project by connecting two existing four-lane segments.
Council member Prout told the commission that the part of highway in question, named “Blood Alley,” has killed so many people, and the advantages that would result from the completion of the project far outweigh any future rail project. “The phase of the project that has been completed, which spans from well inside Kern County to the San Luis Obispo County line, has improved the safety of travelers greatly and has resulted in a decrease in fatalities in the short time it has been completed.”
Prout said at a recent Shafter City Council meeting that the Commission seemed to respond well to the arguments and she stated that it looks like there is a possibility to add additional funds so that the project would be able to move forward. The Commission will be giving an update on their decision sometime in December.