Ceremony to mark groundbreaking of Santa Maria River bridge widening project

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date when construction on the Santa Maria River bridge project is expected to end. Work should be completed in 2013, according to Caltrans.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Sept. 30 to mark the beginning of work on a $34.8 million project to widen the Santa Maria River bridges near the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara county line.

The project will widen the bridge on Highway 101 from two lanes in each direction to three, with shoulders and a bike lane. Construction is expected to wrap up in 2013.

The project’s goal is to improve traffic safety and accommodate an increased number of vehicles. Average daily traffic counts are 64,000 vehicles, but that’s expected to grow to 100,700 by 2030, according to Caltrans.

Funds from Proposition 1B, a transportation bond approved by California voters in 2006, will cover $24.5 million. Another $7.8 million comes from the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, and the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments will pay $2.5 million, according to Caltrans.

The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. at the Santa Maria levee, east of the northbound freeway onramp at state Route 135 (Broadway). Santa Maria Mayor Larry Lavagnino and state Sen. Sam Blakeslee are slated to speak.