FRESNO, Calif. (FOX26) — A coalition of local and state lawmakers is calling on the California Secretary of Transportation to reconsider and support the completion of the Highway 41 gap from Elkhorn Avenue in Fresno County to Excelsior in Kings County.
The five-mile stretch is two lanes, instead of four lanes-- and has been the site of numerous, deadly head-on crashes.
“The denial will cost lives,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson said Wednesday morning.
He and others have sought letters of support from Kim to present to the federal government, in hopes of receiving funding for the project that's estimated to cost $65 million.
As we reported last month, Rep. David Valadao requested $20 million for the project.
Wednesday, the California State Transportation Agency confirmed to FOX26 it did not provide a support letter for Rep. Valadao’s request for a federal earmark.
Patterson and others say they were told the state wouldn't provide the letter because the project would increase capacity.
"We're not adding capacity to Highway 41. We are completing the capacity that's already there," Patterson says.
Wednesday night, FOX26 News received the following statement from Garin Casaleggio Deputy Secretary of Communications with the California State Transportation Agency:
The California State Transportation Agency is fully supportive of Caltrans’ current work to complete the median barrier project on State Route 41 which will immediately address the safety concerns raised by the community. Caltrans will begin construction on June 7 and complete this safety project in approximately 60 days to prevent vehicles from passing in the no passing zone.
Caltrans has long been involved in efforts to increase safety measures that improve the corridor for travelers. Caltrans continues to work with local partners to identify viable projects and potential funding sources for long-range safety improvements on this stretch of highway.
Last week, Fresno County Transportation Authority and the Fresno Council of Governments sent a letter to Kim, saying his verbal support for the Central Valley "does not appear to translate into action."
Those who live in the area say the five-mile gap is a reminder of work not completed decades ago.
In some portions, land is already leveled and cleared.
The project already has environmental clearance, and Caltrans has revised the design to incorporate existing lanes.
"This is something that needs to be finished for these families and for these communities that hear these accidents," says Lorna Roush, with the "Widen Highway 41 Movement." "The next thing they're wondering is, 'Which one of us just lost our loved one?'"
Caltrans has already installed rumble strips.
Concrete barriers will be installed in June, following initial delays.
Roush says that's a start.
But she says, the real solution will be completing the two remaining lanes.
"[Drivers are] very impatient. We can't change that. We can't change the drivers," Roush says. "But we can sure change the road and get it to where it was supposed to be."
Patterson says he's requesting a meeting with Secretary Kim to make his case for the Highway 41 completion in person.
"They are leaving the Central Valley drivers with a dangerous, deadly, incomplete highway that has become a deathtrap. Their denial will in fact cost lives," Patterson says. "We need to have his complete support."