A $17.5 million federal grant has been approved for widening a final segment of Highway 46 from two to four lanes, Rep. Kevin McCarthy announced Thursday.
In a morning phone call with McCarthy, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao confirmed the grant for the highway, according to a statement issue by McCarthy.
“Our community is home to some of the most important economic industries in the country," McCarthy said in the statement. "Understanding its national importance and how our constituents frequently travel this route, Congressman David Valadao and I were committed to securing the necessary federal resources to widen a portion of State Route 46 from two lanes to four ..."
Valadao, R-Hanford, was a co-signer on the letter requesting the funds.
The project will focus on a 5-mile stretch of Highway 46 in the community of Lost Hills. It will mark the completion of a 33-mile long widening project on the highway in Kern County.
Intersection improvements will also be done, improving safety for local residents and commuters who use the roadway.
Highway 46 between Lost Hills and Paso Robles, the main route for people going to the Central Coast, has often been referred to as "Blood Alley" for the number of fatal accidents that have occurred on it over the years when it was primarily two lanes — one in each direction.
"There have been dozens of fatalities on this stretch of highway," said Ahron Hakimi, executive director of the Kern Council of Governments, the organization that submitted the grant application. "Congressman McCarthy has personally called me after every fatality, and has worked with our office to try to accelerate the widening of this road."
The widening project has gone on for more than 20 years, Hakimi said. Widening the road helps to prevent nearly all head-on traffic fatalities that occur when drivers attempt to pass slow-moving vehicles.
"This project was a great project," he said. "And it would not have been selected without the work of Majority Leader McCarthy himself."
He also credited former Congressman Bill Thomas, who worked on the funding for the project before McCarthy took office, as well as State Senator Dean Florez for helping move the project along.
"The project will build on the success we have had over the years to upgrade our infrastructure that has opened up new avenues into our growing region," McCarthy said. "This announcement recognizes that the Trump Administration -- and Secretary Chao specifically—understands and appreciates our communities’ economic future.”