By MIKE MORRIS
Construction on a new Highway 4 passing lane east of Arnold, set to begin this weekend, will be delayed if state legislators don't pass a budget today, Calaveras County officials said.
The $2.3 million project is a 1.2-mile eastbound lane 10 miles beyond Arnold.
"If the state budget is not fine by Friday then the project will be suspended," George Dondero, executive director of the Calaveras Council of Governments, said yesterday. "The money has been authorized, but we can't get to it."
Without a budget, there might not be enough cash in the state's highway account after Sunday to fund transportation projects statewide, Caltrans Director Jeff Morales said in a letter last week.
"At that point, we will be faced with the need to curtail, at least temporarily, construction and maintenance work throughout the state," he wrote.
According to a county report, Sunday was the anticipated construction start date for the passing lane project. The report states it's possible for the project to be completed in one season, depending on the fall weather.
"We've been intending to complete construction in one season," Dondero said.
This, however, will not be the case.
Even if the state's budget passes soon, construction will still get a late start and will not be complete until next spring, Dondero said.
At the beginning of April, the California Transportation Commission voted to allocate $2,338,000 for the passing lane project with an estimated completion date of December.
Dondero said the project is a vital one for those who drive on Highway 4.
"There's not many passing opportunities on that part of the highway," he said.