November 9, 2017
A proposal to build an overpass at the deadly Cholame “Y” on Highway 46 may get a cash infusion from the recently passed state transportation bill, speeding up the project by a few years.
A draft regional transportation improvement plan released by Caltrans on Oct. 13 proposes directing $111 million toward the Highway 41/46 intersection, which would include installing an overpass to circumvent the often dangerous interchange.
Final county recommendations will be made in December, and final state funding decisions will be made in spring 2018.
Jim Shivers, a Caltrans District 5 spokesman, said in an email that the project would begin construction in winter 2019 and would be complete in early 2023.
The project is the most expensive of the two dozen poised to benefit from approximately $610 million from state gas taxes, including the 12-cent increase that took effect last week as part of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), according to the Caltrans proposal.
The Cholame “Y” area has been dubbed “Blood Alley,” as it’s seen roughly three times the number of motorist fatalities than the state average, according to Caltrans. It claimed its most famous victim on Sept. 30, 1955, when actor James Dean was killed in a collision there on his way to a car race in Salinas.
According to Tribune archives, at least seven motorists have died in the area since January. The most dangerous features of the stretch include an unprotected lefthand turn and several precarious passing areas.
Caltrans has worked to make the road safer in recent years, by widening lanes and installing rumble strips. The California Highway Patrol has also stepped up speed enforcement during busy travel times.
But the stretch between Shandon and the Cholame “Y” remains dangerous, without dividers or separation for oncoming traffic.
Ron DeCarli, executive director of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG), said the project wouldn’t be moving forward without SB 1, which will provide regional and inter-regional state funds that weren’t available before.
SLOCOG — a board that includes San Luis Obispo County supervisors and a mayor or council member from each of the county’s seven cities — helps allocate state and federal transportation funds.