Passing-lane work awaits solid finances

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By MIKE MORRIS

Construction on a 1.2-mile passing lane about 10 miles east of Arnold on Highway 4, remains stalled until the state officially adopts a budget.

The Senate and Assembly passed a budget plan this week, and Gov. Gray Davis has said he will sign the fiscal bill tomorrow. But until he does and until the money is actually there officials have said they will wait.

Calaveras County and Caltrans officials met yesterday afternoon in Stockton to discuss the $2.3 million Arnold Passing Lane Project.

Scott Maas, local project manager for the Calaveras Council of Governments, said the project's contractor, OK Mittry & Sons, has agreed to begin moving timber for the roadway in the fall.

Mittry will leave tree stumps to prevent erosion, which is becoming a major factor aside from the lack of a solid budget as to when the project begins.

"Erosion is a problem that we're watching very carefully," Maas said.

According to a county report, construction was slated to begin July 20. The report states it's possible for the project to be completed in one season, depending on fall weather.

Fresh dirt will need to be hauled in this fall, but because of the construction's late start, officials worry the winter rain runoffs could cause problems. Officials said they might wait until spring for earthwork to begin.

About 2,000 trucks full of dirt are expected to be brought in to lay a foundation for the passing lane, Maas said. Caltrans is to notify the public when the trucks will be on the road.

At the beginning of April, the state Transportation Commission voted to allocate $2,338,000 for the passing-lane project with an estimated completion date of December. Construction on the lane is now expected to wrap up next year.

Contact Mike Morris at mmorris@uniondemocrat.com .

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