Your drive to the Bay Area could soon be a little faster

LOS BANOS, Calif.

Highway 152 through Los Banos is often congested with commuters, big rigs, and local residents.

Christine Marion said, "Fridays are a big issue because this is the only way to get through to 99."

It also connects to Interstate Five and the 101, and traffic is only expected to get worse in the years ahead. But now the city has received a federal grant worth more than $800 thousand to synchronize about three miles of lights so drivers can cruise through Los Banos without stopping.

Steve Kesselring said, "I think that'd be great. I come through here a couple times a week duck hunting and stuff over on the other side of town, so yeah it would make life a lot easier for us."

The project is also expected to improve safety, but the funding was actually awarded to help reduce air pollution by keeping vehicles moving on the stretch of highway known as Pacheco Boulevard.

Tania Gutierrez said "The pollution is really bad for the children and everyone living here, so I think anything that can be done for that is a plus."

Plans are underway to build a Highway 152 bypass so cars and trucks can go around the city instead of through it. But officials say that's still years away, and even when it's done, some drivers will continue to use this route.

Lori Flanders said, "Our group actually is taking the Los Banos bypass as the number one bypass again this year."

Flanders is with the Merced County Association of governments says synchronizing the traffic lights can be done much cheaper and faster than the bypass.

"Construction is expected to begin in October of this year, with a completion date of January 2012," said Flanders.

The city is still doing a study to make sure the computerized system will work as expected, and if not, the plans will be dropped. But drivers we spoke with are hoping the project will get the green light.

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