Dozens of Valley politicians and transportation leaders showed up to a face-to-face meeting with state commissioners, asking them to keep funding for local highway improvements intact.
The California Transportation Commission met Friday in Fresno to discuss the recent funding controversy over projects on Highway 99 and 46.
Representatives from Madera to Bakersfield— mostly presenting the case on behalf of Highway 99 — impressed upon commissioners the importance of the highway, and the dangers ahead should funding not be restored.
Draft Caltrans Budget Deleted $32 Million for Upgrades
A draft proposal by Caltrans for state funding deleted $32 million for the projects in Madera and Tulare counties (Highway 99) and San Luis Obispo County (Highway 46).
However, a revised version presented to the CTC at Friday’s meeting aims to restore $23 million of that funding.
Caltrans finance administrator Bruce De Terra told the CTC the agency is still looking for the money needed to close the funding gap.
“The Valley together, we are mighty,” Madera County Supervisor Brett Frazier told the commission. “We care. We care about each other. We’re neighbors. We’re all in this together.”
Patterson Sounded Alarm on Cuts
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) sounded the alarm about an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom, that Patterson interpreted as cutting millions from those road projects.
Newsom denied that’s what his September executive action did. In a stop in Fresno last week, Newsom vowed that Highway 99 was a “top priority.”
The timing of Newsom’s order coincided with Caltrans’ draft highway spending proposal in October that cut funding from the Valley projects.
Projects Would Ease Congestion and Reduce Emissions
Patterson was one of several Valley leaders to address the CTC. He reiterated Newsom’s support for Highway 99 and the Central Valley.
“Our question is, will the actions of this department and the oversight of this commission in keeping with the expressed support for 99 by the governor, and whether or not, those of you who are appointed or employed by this governor give a damn as well. This is important to us,” Patterson said.
Specifically, Patterson said Highway 99 is safest when it is three lanes in each direction.
“Please pay attention to what commitment means,” Patterson said.
Madera Mayor Andy Medellin told the commission what Highway 99 means to his community.
“We do depend on ag. We do depend on air quality and water. And, a large part of that is transportation — farm to table,” Medellin said. He said widening the highway in Madera County from four to six lanes would help ease congestion and reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.
The commission’s Friday session was for listening only,with a decision on the final spending plan expected next March. The meeting in Fresno was scheduled at the request of Patterson.