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California's transportation spending deficit could delay Central Coast road construction projects

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Projects to upgrade a couple of main highways on the Central Coast are in question as politicians in Sacramento figure out a way to overcome a major transportation budget shortage.

The problem is statewide, but the local projects in question include the completion of a car pool lane on Highway 101 along the Santa Barbara County South Coast and the expansion of Highway 46 in eastern San Luis Obispo County.

Governor Jerry Brown is calling for a special legislative session this summer to solve the problem.

Members of both political parties in Sacramento can agree on the fact that California's roads need fixing. The question being debated is; where will the money come from to pay for it all.

Assembly Member Das Williams (D-Carpinteria) said the gas tax is not covering infrastructure needs as planned because cars are getting far more efficient. He said he doesn't favor any one particular plan for generating the money, but knows it's needed.

"I am very concerned that my constituents all along the Central Coast will be stuck in traffic for years to come if we are not successful in figuring out a way to fund this," Williams said.

Assembly Member KachoAchadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) said he would like to see Cap and Trade money from the refineries used, some of which is currently earmarked for High Speed Rail.

"So hopefully I can make that case to the committee and then to the governor to bring an additional billion dollars annually to put toward roads," said Achadjian, vice chair of the first session to take up this problem.

Dario Frommer is a member of the California Transportation Commission, and says time is money. Frommer is concerned that this week's drop of six cents-per-gallon in the state gas tax will only exacerbate the funding problem.

"For us, action can't come soon enough because we really don't want to have to go out and start cutting these projects back," Frommer said.

An informational hearing is scheduled for Monday at the state capitol, the first step in the process.