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Construction of Highway 46 East bridges is nearly complete

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 pair of bridges east of Paso Robles on Highway 46 East will be ready for cars and trucks for the first time in mid-July, Caltrans announced Thursday.

Their construction, which began in February 2011, is part of the much larger, roughly $100 million effort over several years to widen San Luis Obispo County’s corridor to the Central Valley from two lanes to four, with the work being completed in five-mile stretches. The entire project is due to wrap up in summer 2013.

The latest segment spans from Geneseo Road to Almond Drive at Whitley Gardens, which is 10 miles west of Shandon.

Eastbound motorists traveling the beginning of that section were switched over onto the newly constructed lanes between Geneseo Road and Union Road — a segment before the bridge — at midnight Thursday, according to Caltrans.

The eastbound realignment will allow construction to proceed from Geneseo Road to east of Almond Drive. Motorists heading west toward Paso Robles will remain on the existing traffic lanes, officials said.

The bridges, which cost a total of $15 million, are arguably the largest part of the work. At 1,000 feet long and 100 feet high, each overpass towers over the Estrella River alongside a stretch of old highway that motorists had used for 50-plus years. That thoroughfare will become a frontage road.

Caltrans officials initially said the bridges would open Thursday night. But their debut was delayed until mid-July so work on bicycle railings could be finished.

The next stage of widening work, from Almond Drive to McMillan Canyon Road, is slated to continue east in the fall.

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

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