A $2.2 million road improvement and paving project from Mi-Wuk Village to Long Barn, the first Caltrans project in Tuolumne County funded through the controversial gas tax and vehicle fee increases of Senate Bill 1, began early this week.

Caltrans District 10 Public Information Officer Rick Estrada said on Tuesday that the project, which will replace damaged pavement, fill potholes, and smooth the roadway for two miles of highway from Lyons Dam Road to just before the entrance to Long Barn, was prioritized as a means to improve traffic on a high-use roadway for a tourist-reliant local economy.

“It’s a rough stretch. The availability of the SB1 money allowed us to do this project right now,” he said. “It was an opportunity to get in there quick and take care of a bad stretch of road right now.”

The current project is expected to be completed by late September, but Estrada noted the caveat that the availability of traffic material and supplies and inclement weather could possibly delay the project.

The $2.2 million had already been requisitioned for Caltrans District 10 for the project, he said. The project will be completed, he added, despite an imminent ballot measure in the fall general election that could repeal the gas tax and vehicle fees implemented through SB1.

SB1, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2017, is intended to raise approximately $54 billion in revenue over the next 10 years to fund repairs to roads, highways and bridges across the state. The bill increased the state gas tax by 12 cents a gallon, added a $100 annual fee for zero-emission vehicles, and raised annual registration fees by $25.

Estrada said, according to long-term projections, about 50 percent of the funds generated by SB1 will be requisitioned for state highways and infrastructure, while the other half will be purposed for local projects.

Estrada said he could not speculate how Caltrans road improvement projects in Tuolumne County would be modified if the tax and fee provisions of SB1 is repealed.

The only other SB1 project confirmed for Tuolumne County was a July 2021 extension of the road improvement and paving effort currently underway, he said.

The upcoming project was set to cost $22 million and would cover just under 20 miles of Highway 108 from Long Barn to approximately 1.5 miles west of Cascade Creek Road east of Strawberry.

On Monday and Tuesday, Caltrans employees put up traffic signs, positioned gear and equipment, and prepared to begin the roadwork on Wednesday morning.

“Tomorrow they should be tearing into the pavement,” Estrada said on Tuesday.

Work on the project is set between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday.

The stretch of road will have one-way traffic control, Estrada said, and about 10-minute delays are expected.

“Sometimes things happen,” Estrada said about potentially longer delays, but noted any member of the public could communicate grievances about wait times to the Caltrans District 10 office.

The project will be conducted by George Reed Construction Inc., of Modesto, Estrada said.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.

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