Strong scores $1.3M for safety projects

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles City Councilmember Fred Strong reported in December that he helped garner millions of dollars for City and San Luis Obispo County roadways through negotiations at the local and state levels.

Strong said that California lost over $368 million of federal aid due to the Trump Administration’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for model years 2021-2026 passenger cars and light trucks. Acting as President and Chairman of San Luis Obispo Council of Government (SLOCOG), Strong worked to secure previously guaranteed other federal and state funds. 

Representing the City at the SLOCOG meeting, Strong advocated that the committee keep from letting projects involving Highway 46 languish. Strong said that stalling a project and restarting it can add 20 percent to the overall cost and it makes better sense to keep the projects moving forward.

“Our City staff and I negotiated $400,000 for 46 West/101 and $550,000 for Union Road at 46 East,” Strong said. “That will give us $1.3 million for 46 West at 101 and $1.05 million toward Union Road and 46 East.”

In October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom redirected money gathered by the SB-1 Gas Tax away from roadways and into railways. In response, Caltrans suspended work on the Highway 46 Antelope Project. The project seeks to widen the “Y” located near Cholame to relieve congestion and improve safety.

Strong drafted a letter to California Transportation Chair Fran Inman, requesting reconsideration of their decision to delay the funding for the final phase of the project. He also met with the CEO of the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to advocate for the project’s continuation.

“Deleting the design funding without a contingency plan or statement of commitment for either Caltrans Headquarters or the CTC sends a message to the motorists and taxpayers that the projects, which is aimed at addressing severe safety issues along a route of statewide regional importance is no longer a priority,” the letter stated.

Strong gladly reported that the letter had the intended effect and Caltrans and CTC agreed to restore $10.3 million dollars to the project.