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Work to widen Hwy. 46 East to four lanes begins third phase

Rick Murphy, right, from the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, checks out the new 100-foot-tall bridge spanning the Estrella River along Highway 46 East during a tour Thursday.
Rick Murphy, right, from the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, checks out the new 100-foot-tall bridge spanning the Estrella River along Highway 46 East during a tour Thursday. jmellom@thetribunenews.com

A Pismo Beach construction firm has broken ground on the third phase of work to widen Highway 46 East.

Overall, the roughly $100 million construction project, which has spanned several years, will expand San Luis Obispo County’s corridor to the Central Valley from two lanes to four.

The work is being completed in five-mile stretches, with the entire project due to be completed in fall 2015.

“This project will improve safety for thousands of commuters, tourists and those in California’s agricultural industry who rely on this highway to move goods to market,” Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty said in a statement.

Papich Construction Inc. secured contracts for all three phases in separate bids with the state that have totaled about $113.9 million, firm president Jason Papich said. Each phase has provided jobs to about 50 Papich employees, he added.

Previous phases involved widening segments of Highway 46 from Paso Robles toward Shandon, and two new overpasses were built over the Estrella River.

The first phase, completed last year, was between Airport and Geneseo roads. The second phase is still under way between Geneseo Road to east of Almond Drive.

The overpasses, each 1,000 feet long and 100 feet high, opened this summer.

Financing comes from Proposition 1B, a $20 billion transportation bond measure approved by California voters in November 2006.

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