Highway money hits a roadblock

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Remember how excited we felt when we believed highway money was on its way to straighten the nauseatingly curvy Highway 299 at Buckhorn Summit?

And remember how relieved we felt to imagine a Highway 44 interchange at Stillwater Road, the site of some horrific crashes over the years?

Cheer no more, as you read this California Department of Transportation press release we received Tuesday. Apparently, there’s not enough money left for these projects.

Stillwater Funding Runs Dry

REDDING – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has put a project to extend the State Route 44 freeway east to Palo Cedro and construct an interchange at Stillwater Drive on hold indefinitely. With a remaining cost of $68 million in today’s dollars, Caltrans and the Shasta County Regional Transportation Planning Agency (RTPA) determined there are insufficient funds to build the project.

Dan Little, Executive Director of the RTPA, stated “The state and federal transportation funding picture has become bleak since this project was first considered in 1999. The combination of a flat gas tax, inflated construction costs, and growing maintenance needs on existing roads and bridges has put projects like this out of reach.”

On February 23, 2006, Caltrans conducted an informational meeting at Bishop Quinn High School to consider a scaled back project that would construct the Stillwater interchange but forgo the freeway widening. Even this project, with an $8.9 million price tag, does not rise high enough on the Caltrans or RTPA priority lists to program the state’s limited congestion-relief funds.

“State and federal revenues are not keeping pace to accommodate traffic from local growth. We can’t keep up with congestion in our urban centers let alone our urban fringes. We all want to avoid the big-city gridlock we see in other regions; it’s going to involve tough decisions that balance public improvement costs with the social and economic costs of being stuck in traffic” stated Little.

The 2008 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP), which determines how to spend diminishing state funds on a growing list of congestion-relief projects in the region, is scheduled for adoption by the RTPA February 26. Both the Stillwater project and a project to realign curves on State Route 299 at Buckhorn Grade are recommended to be tabled for RTIP spending. A project to begin environmental studies to widen a segment of Interstate 5 to six lanes between the Bonnyview and State Route 44 interchanges is recommended instead.

The RTPA meeting is scheduled for February 26, 2008, at 4:00PM at the Shasta County Board of Supervisor’s Chambers, at 1450 Court Street. The public is welcome to attend and provide input on this plan.

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Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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1 Response

  1. Avatar Tom O'Mara says:

    I can't help but comment that if we weren't shelling out over $1 billion/day in interest on the national debt, we might well be able to afford things like this. People think that there's no cost to our current way of conducting government business – well, there's a cost. . .