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County to Get $111.8 Million for Roads : Government: Most of the federal gasoline-tax money will be used for improvements, but some is earmarked for clean-air programs.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ventura County will receive about $111.8 million in federal gasoline-tax money for roadwork and air quality improvements, officials said Wednesday.

The money is part of the $151-billion transportation bill that President Bush signed into law Wednesday.

The county’s share includes $53 million for projects including widening of the Ventura Freeway between Vineyard Avenue in Oxnard and Johnson Drive in Ventura; the widening of the Saticoy Bridge; and construction of a road linking Port Hueneme to the Ventura Freeway, said Christopher Stephens, senior planner for the county Transportation Department.

The state matches the federal money, usually with gasoline-tax funds, said John Frith, aide to Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley).

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In addition, the county will be eligible to receive an estimated $58.8 million for unspecified highway projects and an air quality program, Stephens said.

Widening of the Ventura Freeway at the Santa Clara River Bridge would improve the link between Ventura and Oxnard. About 117,000 motorists cross the six-lane bridge every day, and the state Department of Transportation has estimated that 178,000 will travel over it daily by 2010.

Saticoy Bridge, which handles about 24,000 vehicles per day, will be widened from two to four lanes, and California 118 through Saticoy will be straightened, Stephens said.

The $9-million Port Hueneme project would connect the freeway to the city’s deep-water port, which is trying to increase its cargo tonnage, said Bill Buenger, deputy executive director of the Oxnard Harbor District. Drivers and shippers now travel on country roads or through Oxnard to reach the port.

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“It’s really going to need that infrastructure to handle all that extra business,” said Dan Mathews, legislative aide to Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Ventura).

“We’re very delighted that there is some money set aside to at least get the project started,” Buenger said, cautioning that $9 million doesn’t go very far today.

He said Oxnard, county and harbor district officials have “yet to decide how to proceed with this.”

The leading proposal would extend Rice Avenue to Hueneme Road and on to the harbor, but it is unclear how much of the project could be done for the money available, Stephens said. Road construction is scheduled to start in 1997, he said.

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Lagomarsino and Gallegly originally requested $15 million for the Port Hueneme road project, but the appropriation was cut when the transportation bill faced a presidential veto, Mathews said.

“It’s still a major step in the right direction,” Frith said.

The $58.8 million for unspecified projects would be appropriated during the six-year life of the transportation bond. An estimated $40 million would go to road projects and $18.8 million for the new Congestion and Air Quality Program, which could buy buses or add train lines, car-pool lanes or park-and-ride lots, Stephens said.

The county also will benefit indirectly from a $15-million research and development grant earmarked for Concrete Technology Corp. of Santa Barbara, which is working on a long-lasting cement, Mathews said.

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Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Mathews said some of this extra-strength cement will be used in the Port Hueneme road project.

“If it really works, (transportation officials) could save a tremendous amount of money,” he said.


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