To help ease congestion, Caltrans has committed more than $150 million to add carpool lanes along a busy stretch of the 101 Freeway in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Six miles of carpool lanes will be added in each direction from Mobil Pier Road in Ventura County to Casitas Pass Road in Santa Barbara County, said Caltrans spokeswoman Jeanne Bonfilio. The new lanes will link to a three-mile stretch of high-occupancy vehicle lanes under development in Santa Barbara County, from the Ventura County line to Carpinteria.
The funds are part of the first installment of a $19.9-billion transportation bond measure, Proposition 1B, approved by California voters in November. With no local sales tax for transportation projects, Ventura County is solely dependent on state money for such road improvements.
"We are not unpleased with how we have done with the program," Ginger Gherardi, executive director of the county's Transportation Commission, said of the allocation.
Caltrans consultants will next prepare the needed environmental documents. If approved, the final design for the extra lanes will be drawn up, with construction expected to begin in winter 2011 and wrap up by summer 2013.
Gherardi said that the eastern portion of Ventura County still had the five top priority transportation projects, including two underway -- widening and modernizing of the 118 Freeway from the Los Angeles County line to Tapo Canyon Road, and adding an extra lane in each direction on California 23, which connects Thousand Oaks and Moorpark.
"That's our No. 1 priority -- finishing what's already under construction," Gherardi said.
The commission is still working with Caltrans to secure nearly $33 million needed to complete the 118 Freeway widening.
Just last month, California transportation commissioners agreed to set aside $6.28 million from the Proposition 1B funds to add an offramp and onramp on the 118 at Rocky Peak Road.
By completing this work with contractors already on the scene for the widening project, planners expect to save millions of dollars.
Gherardi said other county road priorities include expanding the junction of the 101 and the 23, widening the western portion of the 118 Freeway from Tapo Canyon Road into Moorpark and making more than $100 million in improvements to the 118 west of the 23. The 118, despite its role as a main truck route, becomes a two-lane road in Moorpark and winds through more than a dozen miles of mostly farmland until it reaches the eastern edge of Ventura.