Roadway ribbon cutting
State, county and local leaders cut the ribbon during a ceremony for the Spence Road Auxiliary Lane Project on Dec. 8. (Contributed)

SALINAS — U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta and local leaders recently hosted an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Spence Road Auxiliary Lane Project, a key local infrastructure improvement effort that will enhance both roadway and community safety.

The project was funded thanks in part to $1 million in community project funding secured by Panetta, along with state and local investments.

The past expressway design contributed to a higher-than-average collision rate, where high-speed traffic met with slow-moving vehicles entering or exiting from agricultural fields. The project will provide space for trucks to safely accelerate from Spence Road onto Highway 101 and provide a deceleration lane for traffic exiting to Eckhardt Road, reducing collisions while improving safety conditions and traffic flow.

“Residents and visitors to the Central Coast have for years experienced the safety hazards and traffic delays that resulted from roadway design flaws along US 101,” Panetta said. “I fought for federal funding for key roadway repairs that will ensure cars and trucks coming from our agricultural fields can do so safely. Today’s ribbon-cutting is a testament to what can be accomplished when all levels of government work together to prioritize the safety and quality of life of the families, workers, and visitors who contribute greatly to our home on the Central Coast of California.”

The auxiliary lane is an initial safety improvement in the overall “US 101 South of Salinas” project along 5.5 miles of Highway 101 from Airport Boulevard to Main Street in Chualar.

Panetta and Sen. Alex Padilla secured $1 million in federal community project funding for the project from the Federal Highway Administration. The funding was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2023 signed by President Biden. 

The US 101 South of Salinas project is a Measure X-funded project and is leveraging both state and local funding, as well.

Highway 101 is the primary artery along the Central Coast and is vital to statewide commerce. This busy corridor provides access from California’s Central Coast agricultural operations to markets around the country and provides a link from Southern California to the tourist destinations along the Monterey Peninsula, supporting a $3 billion annual tourism economy.

An estimated 185,000 tons of produce is transported to market from Monterey County each year, supporting the County’s $3.9 billion per year agricultural industry.

Joining Panetta at the Dec. 8 ribbon-cutting were officials from the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) and Caltrans, Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez, TAMC Chair and King City Mayor Mike LeBarre, and roadway safety advocates.

“This is a down payment, and intermediate improvement that will improve safety on this corridor while we make the much-needed improvements that are in process for the rest of the corridor,” said Lopez on social media afterward. “It was an honor to speak to the importance of the project and thank all of our collaborators from TAMC, CHP, CalTrans, Farm Bureau and beyond.”

Representatives from the offices of Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Sen. Anna Caballero and California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas were also in attendance.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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