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Staff Writer

SIMI VALLEY -- Homeward-bound commuters will find the going tough after the city lost its bid for state bond money Thursday to build another westbound lane on the Ronald Reagan Freeway.

With the eastbound freeway already being widened from Tapo Canyon Road to the Los Angeles County line, Ventura County officials had hoped to receive nearly $33 million to add a westbound lane to the highway, which carries an estimated 118,000 vehicles a day.

Instead, the California Transportation Commission gave the region just $6 million on Thursday, which will be used to finish ramps at the Rocky Peak Road freeway interchange. Commissioners also promised they'll give high priority to the widening project when they dole out transportation money next year.

"We would have liked to get all the money to get the project done sooner than later," said Kerry Forsythe, deputy director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission. "But you take what you can get."

The freeway improvement money was a fraction of the $2.5 billion allocated from Proposition 1B, the $20 billion transportation bond passed by voters last year.

The commission last year gave Ventura County about $50 million to widen the 118 Freeway, which serves the booming Simi Valley and Moorpark areas.

However, the allocation wasn't enough to pay for the entire project, so Ventura County officials opted to began construction first on the eastbound lanes, which carries heavy traffic in the morning as commers head to jobs in Los Angeles.

The confusion was this year, when local officials applied for bond money to finish the project. The freeway widening project was listed as a new rather than an ongoing project, so the commission's staff recommended against funding it.

However, with the commission's promise to fund the expansion next year, there should not be a break in construction, Simi Valley City Manager Mike Sedell said. The eastbound expansion is scheduled for completion in 2009, with the westbound project a year later.

That won't be too soon for many motorists, who seek relief from stop-and-go freeway traffic by taking shortcuts through Simi Valley's neighborhoods, creating congestion on surface streets.

"You have this domino effect throughout the rest of the community," Sedell said.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 10, 2007
Previous Article:BACK ON TRACK.

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