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Bypass back on

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Thanks to the state Legislature finally passing a budget Thursday, the Highway 65 bypass is back on, according to governmental officials. “There will be no need to stop the bypass,” said Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove, a longtime advocate for the project, on Thursday. The $325 million, 11.7-mile project has been in the works for decades. When completed, the bypass will reroute Highway 65 around Lincoln, taking off at Lincoln Crossing and rejoining the current route at Sheridan. The project has seen its share of bumps in the road, with funding during the economic downturn a major hurdle, Cosgrove said. The Legislature’s agreement on a budget Thursday morning saved the bypass project from shutting down, Cosgrove said, adding that the State Controller is allowing more flexibility for the movement of funds to transportation projects since there is now a budget. “It also turns out,” Cosgrove said, “that it’s eligible for some of the federal stimulus as well.” Celia McAdam, executive director of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, cautioned Thursday that the project isn’t “free and clear” yet. “We’ve definitely got some breathing space,” McAdam said, “but we’re not out of the woods yet.” Since bonds fund the project, those bonds need to be sold, McAdam said, and with the state’s credit rating being “not that great” coupled with poor investor markets, it presents a challenge. Even getting federal stimulus money “is convoluted,” according to McAdam. “Under law, stimulus money can’t be used for projects already under construction,” McAdam said. She added that there is nothing to prohibit the state moving money from other projects that do get stimulus money to balance them out. “The bottom line is the project is still under construction,” McAdam said. “How it’s going to all play out is not known yet … we’ve dodged another bullet. It’s a huge relief that Caltrans is not sending a stop-work letter to the contractor.” Richard Gates, president of DeSilva Gates Construction, said there is no plan to shut the project down at this time. “We’re continuing to work right now,” Gates said. “We haven’t gotten any direction from Caltrans. I will expect the job to continue on.” Cosgrove said this represents a “huge step in the process” and that there should be no more major hurdles until the project is complete. “Until we cut the ribbon and drive down the road,” Cosgrove cautioned, “I will have my fingers crossed.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.