Oleander out, concrete medians in on Hwy. 101 through Paso Robles

Caltrans crews on Monday will begin installing a concrete median barrier along Highway 101 from the Niblick Bridge north to the Highway 46 East interchange in Paso Robles.

Highway 101's fast lane will be closed in both directions from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The closure will continue Friday in the same time frame on the northbound fast lane only. Motorists can expect up to 10-minute delays next week.

The project is expected to be completed this summer.

Future closures through the summer are expected, officials said, however details are not yet set.

Currently, oleander shrubs on a dirt median serve as a barrier between the north and southbound lanes but they will be removed.

The Paso Robles City Council gave its OK on the $2.2 million state project in 2010 after having many discussions on preserving the oleander. Mayor Duane Picanco said the large green shrubs are iconic for the town.

Ultimately, officials decided the oleander would not be kept. Caltrans officials say concrete is a safer barrier for motorists as well as for its workers. The council opted for a decorative concrete median to be installed.

Cal Portland of Santa Maria is the contractor. -Tonya Strickland