Using a novel form of financing, the Ventura County Transportation Commission has reached a deal with Caltrans to widen a dangerous rural road that winds to the Cal State Channel Islands campus.
The two-lane road in Camarillo and its interchange with the Ventura Freeway will undergo about $40 million worth of improvements as part of a 2-year-old plan that had stalled when the governor and Legislature diverted transportation construction funds to help deal with the state budget crisis.
"I'm very, very pleased. That road is hazardous, and I really didn't want the cost of the road to be increased by adding human lives," said university President Richard Rush. "I'm grateful for the county's efforts and the California Transportation Commission's willingness to make that road better right now."
A fatal three-car crash was among 26 accidents on Lewis Road, including five near the campus entrance, that occurred in the past two years, according to the California Highway Patrol.
With CSUCI enrollment predicted to reach 15,000 students by 2025, officials did not want to delay the widening project any longer.
"We're tickled, because this was an opportunity to advance one of our priority projects," said John Procter, chairman of the Ventura County Transportation Commission.
The California Transportation Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve a plan under which the county transportation commission would arrange for the issuance of $23 million in bonds and pay the interest on them until 2010.
That year, Caltrans would pay off the bonds. The rest of the funding would come from federal grants.
The net borrowing cost of the bonds until their redemption in 2010 is estimated at $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
Ginger Gherardi, executive director of the county transportation commission, said Caltrans usually reimburses local agencies by paying for additional road improvement projects of an equal value. This is the first time, she said, that the repayment will come in the form of cash.
"There's a safety problem out on that road, and we wanted to get it corrected," Gherardi said.
When the funding of the Lewis Road improvements was postponed in 2003, the state rescheduled the project for 2009, Gherardi said.
"It's a creative mechanism for maximizing our ability to move projects through the system," said Keith Millhouse, another county transportation commissioner.
The project includes enhancements to the freeway interchanges at Carmen and Dawson drives, which are near the university.
Additionally, Rush said CSUCI intends to build a four-lane road from Lewis Road to near where the admissions building will be relocated.