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Work on Willow Road to start soon after county awards $20 million contract

jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The long-awaited Willow Road project, which will transform how South County motorists get to and through the Nipomo Mesa, received a huge boost this week when the Board of Supervisors awarded a $20 million contract to Granite Construction to build it.

Construction should begin early next year, and residents could be driving on the new roads by December 2012, according to Dan Woodson, chairman of the Nipomo Traffic and Circulation Committee.

Woodson and others involved were ecstatic that the project, in the works since the 1990s, is about to become more than a diagram on a drawing board.

“It’s amazing. It’s wonderful,” Woodson told The Tribune.

“This is great,” said Dale Ramey, transportation traffic manager for the county.

Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who as a county supervisor for 12 years championed the project, was on hand Tuesday when his former colleagues unanimously awarded the contract.

What they approved:

A new freeway interchange, between the Tefft and Los Berros interchanges.

A new road west of the interchange that will create a straight route to Highway 1 and the coast from Highway 101 and provide easier access to residents in the developments on Nipomo Mesa, such as Trilogy, Woodlands and The Oaks.

A road east connecting Highway 101 to Thompson Road, making access to Nipomo High School easier.

County leaders expect the new interchange to take pressure off the Tefft Road interchange, one of the county’s most congested.

In July, supervisors talked about dropping the extension to Thompson Road because, at the time, it did not appear financially feasible.

However, Ramey said this week, the bids came in much lower than expected because of the faltering economy.

The money is coming from a variety of federal, state and local sources. Of the total figure, $3.7 million could come from the county General Fund, in the form of a loan authorized by supervisors.

However, Ramey said, taking money from that source will be a last resort, and the county may not have to tap into it if, as expected, developments on the Mesa come through with millions of dollars in road impact fees owed.

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