Caltrans gives go-ahead for Highway 99 widening project: “A 10.5-mile stretch of Highway 99 through Merced County will be widened to six lanes, Caltrans announced Thursday.”
My beautifull wife and I were talking about this as we were getting ready for work this morning. The widening project is being funded by Proposition 1B. When the 1B campaign was being run, it was presented, in my opinion, as if the funds that the bond measures would provide were essentially preallocated. Indeed, up and down Merced County were signs saying “Fix 99 – Vote yes on 1B”. Indeed I passed some remaining signs today.
Now in the first round of funding from 1B no money went to Merced County. Erm… Hang on, this is why we voted for 1B. At the time there was also a seperate measure on the County ballot to raise sales tax to fund highway improvements. This sales tax raise was defeated, but 1B passed. A lot of people, including myself, saw no point in raising sales tax when 1B was going to pass.
It actually turns out that had the county passed the sales tax increase, even more 1B money would be coming to Merced. Now, I wish that would have been explained during the campaigns last fall! Most people saw the 2 measures as competing not complementing!
But now, in the second round of funding, Merced County has been given the money to widen a few miles of Highway 99… As I travel that road (140 miles of it) daily, I am curious as to why it needs widening. I understand the safety concerns about the freeway exits and entrances that the new interchanges serve, and support those. However, making 10.5 miles wider achieves what? A bottleneck comining into the city, as people merge? The fact that now people can speed rather than being forced to go the speed limit by the moron in front of you who does not realize how important it is for you to get to work 3 minutes earlier?
Unless there is road work, I never go slower than 60 mph on this road, even during rush hour. Yes, traffic is heavy but is is moving. My other commute to the bay area keeps the “Merced Congestion” issue in perspective. So why are we widening it? Well, the money is there and we want a piece of the pie. Band Wagons rolling folks, all jump on!
Well, how about an alternative? How about a high speed rail link? I would love that (Just don’t let Amtrak run it). Being British I am rather used to travelling by train. The good news is that there is alreaqdy a California High Speed Rail plan. The bad news is that its bond funding balot measures keeps getting postponed, most recently to allow the passage of 1B…