Just when it looked like Highway 101 was headed for a legacy of potholes and traffic jams, things are showing signs of improvement.
The region’s major trade corridor is more than just a lifeline for goods and services — in many ways it actually defines the tri-county economy.
And to make major changes on Highway 101 takes political will, multi-jurisdictional cooperation and plenty of patience.
Consider the recently announced $80 million overhaul of the Highway 101 intersection with Santa Clara/Rice Avenue in Oxnard.
When it’s done in 18 months or so, the new overpass will complete a decades-long effort to get trucks flowing with speed through the Rice Avenue corridor to the 101 — bypassing downtown Oxnard, saving millions of dollars in fuel every year and cleaning up the air.
This project was first proposed more than a decade ago, and much of the funding appeared to be in hand in the late 1990s when U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly secured more than $16 million in federal funding for the overpass.
But the cost kept going up as it became obvious, among other things, that Ventura Boulevard would have to be rerouted near the site of the new bridge.
Then came the great inflation of construction costs and bids went out of sight.
The rest of the Rice Avenue trade corridor was finished, but the final piece languished until U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, with support from Gallegly, went to the Obama administration to secure the final $5 million from the stimulus bill.
Construction has started — 12 years late — or just in time to provide a couple hundred much-needed jobs in the worst economic meltdown for contractors since the Great Depression.