Highway 46 collision claims retired Kern County Sheriff's deputy's life

A fatal accident involving four cars and a semi-truck just east of Shandon on Highway 46 on March 31, 2017. The driver of a GMC, retired Kern County sheriff's Deputy Jesse Acebedo, was killed when his truck collided head-on with a semi hauling spent grain from a brewery in Paso Robles.

A fix to a notorious rural San Luis Obispo County intersection has received funding by the state.

The $197 million will continue the widening of Highway 46 and will fund a full-freeway interchange between 46 and Highway 41 at the Cholame “Y” intersection — the place where actor James Dean died in an car collision in 1955.

That’s good news for the thousands of travelers from Kern, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties who travel the two routes to adventures on California’s Central Coast each year.

The Cholame “Y” intersection between highways 46 and 41 is currently an uncontrolled rural intersection where cars are expected to merge effectively.

“This is great news that that interchange is being funded,” said Ahron Hakimi, executive director of the Kern Council of Governments.

He said KernCOG has been working very closely with Caltrans, state and federal legislators and the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments for more than a decade to widen Highway 46 to four lanes between Interstate 5 and Highway 101 in Paso Robles.

The route — once little more than a two-lane country road — has been notorious for brutal head-on collisions as drivers attempt to dart around slower-moving traffic or drift into oncoming traffic as their attention wanes.

Much of the route in Kern County has been widened to four lanes, with only one section near Lost Hills left to complete.

And Caltrans has been working east from Highway 101 — widening Highway 46 nearly all the way to Cholame.

But the route remains fatal.

Just last spring multiple Kern County residents died in traffic on the route — many of them in the two-lane section that still remains on either side of the Cholame “Y.”

Ronald L. De Carli, executive director of SLOCOG, said the new funding from the state will take the route’s widening work all the way from the Shandon rest stop all the way to the “Y.”

It will also, he said, pay for engineering, environmental and right-of-way work on the Antelope Grade between the “Y” and the Kern County/SLO County line.

It means ongoing construction on the San Luis Obispo County stretch of Highway 46 will continue seamlessly.

Work is expected to start on the interchange in 2021-22.

James Burger can be reached at 661‑395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @KernQuirks.

James Burger can be reached at 661‑395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @KernQuirks.

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