Long-awaited fix coming for a deadly Hwy. 101 intersection in SLO County

A deadly North County intersection will finally get a permanent fix, but it may take a few years.

Caltrans is planning an underpass near Wellsona Road and Highway 101 — located just north of Paso Robles and just south of San Miguel — where grape grower Richard Sauret was recently killed when his truck collided with a southbound vehicle while he was turning left.

The $13 million underpass will be located just south of the intersection, and will be funded by the State Highway Operation and Protection Program, said Jim Shivers, a spokesman for Caltrans District 5. Caltrans informed San Luis Obispo County officials of the plan in an August letter.

A median will be installed on Highway 101 in the middle of the intersection, and all left turns will be eliminated, Shivers said.

Construction on the underpass is expected to begin by 2022, although there’s no current timeline for the project and funding has not yet been secured, he said.

Between 2012 and 2016, the Wellsona-Highway 101 intersection was the site of 16 vehicle collisions or crashes, 12 of which resulted in injuries or fatalities, according to a November 2016 Tribune investigation. At that time, six people had been killed in vehicle crashes or collisions at the intersection since 2012.

The San Paso Truck Stop and the Vines RV Resort on either side of the road mean slow, heavy vehicles frequently cross the highway in front of traffic, increasing the risk of high-speed collisions.

In 2016, Ron De Carli, executive director of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, told The Tribune that building an overpass would cost about $30 million, money San Luis Obispo County didn’t have.

At the time, Shivers said the location “remains safe,” although Caltrans did install roadside lights, add truck-crossing signs with flashing beacons and improve striping in a 2-mile area on both sides of the road.

When asked why Caltrans now plans to build the long-called-for fix, Shivers said the area’s collision history and increased development nearby contributed to the decision.

“There are a lot of safety projects we would like to do,” he said. “It’s a matter of when the dollars are available.”

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27

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