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Officials break ground on Highway 65 bypass

By: Cheri March, Lincoln News Messenger
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Transportation officials broke ground on the $325 million Highway 65 bypass in Lincoln on Friday – more than three decades after a need for the project was identified. Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove pointed out that, when the thoroughfare was first discussed in 1972, a gallon of gas cost just 39 cents. “This project is a culmination of 35 years of work, dedication, and planning by local, state, federal, and national elected leaders,” he said. “…We’ve proven we can overcome obstacles to get things funded…now it’s time to build it.” The 11.7-mile bypass will span from Industrial Avenue to Sheridan, freeing Downtown Lincoln from commuter congestion. It will cut peak travel time in half from Industrial Avenue through Sheridan, from 48 to 21 minutes. Additionally, local traffic in town should drop 73 percent by 2015, according to the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency. But while funding is currently in place, the state’s deficit threatens to pull the plug on the long-awaited project. “If the legislature doesn’t put the money in the checking account, so to speak, at some point the check will bounce,” said Celia McAdam, PCTPA’s executive director. California Transportation Commissioner Jim Earp cautioned officials to stay vigilant about finding funding sources for future projects, as well as to push to make sure funding isn’t stripped from the bypass. “After all the work that has gone into this, I’d hate to see them yank the funds out– it would just be a crime,” he said. But if all goes as planned, cars could be on the bypass by 2013. Construction firm Desilva Gates was given 60 days to mobilize after signing a contract in June, McAdam said. The bypass will consist of four lanes between Industrial and Nelson Lane and two lanes to Sheridan, though McAdam said PCTPA is pushing for four lanes through Wise Road. Also included are interchanges at Highway 65 and Industrial Avenue, Ferrari Ranch Road, and Sheridan, and signalized intersections at Nelson Lane, Wise Road, and Riosa Road. While financing the project was a struggle amid escalating construction costs and multiple funding diversions, PCTPA eventually collected $192.8 million from the state – including $78.6 million from Proposition 1B, passed by voters in 2006, and $39 from developer fees and local contributions – and an additional $14.6 million in federal funding through Rep. John Doolittle’s efforts. “Today makes it believable when they say Lincoln is going to be the biggest city in the county,” said Doolittle, who admitted Friday could be his last major groundbreaking event as a congressman. “It’s satisfying to see the efforts that my staff and so many other people put into this, to see the groundbreaking and the hundreds of millions beginning to be spent.”