Highway 41 Widening Project moves one step closer to reality

'Multiple people have lost their lives... It's heart-wrenching.'
FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A 6-mile stretch of Highway 41 has kept residents worrying about their loved ones for years.

"When we hear of an accident, all of us are holding our breath, thinking whose family members was taken from us," says Lorna Roush.

Roush used her own devastating loss as inspiration to start a safety campaign.

She is behind the Widening 41 effort, aimed at expanding the road between Excelsior and Elkhorn after she says her cousin's husband, Kenneth Atkins, was killed in September last year.

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Her hope is getting closer to becoming a reality as the state of California has finally provided a letter of support for the project.

That could mean millions of federal dollars for fixing the dangerous road.

"It's clear that the Central Valley's voices were heard loud and clear in Sacramento," Roush says.

This letter from Caltrans will be included with Congressman David Valadao's $20 million Congressional Budget Request.

State Assemblyman Jim Patterson says just days ago the project almost never happened.

The State Transportation Authority put the plan in jeopardy, indicating it wasn't supporting projects that would increase capacity along roadways.

"We made a compelling case that this is not a capacity project - it's a gap closure safety project, it's a critical safety project," Roush says.

Signs along the road remind drivers of the hazards.

RELATED: Rumble strips, double-striping to serve as temporary fix for dangerous Highway 41 stretch

Terry Davis and Jerry Phillips lost their father Glen Phillips more than 20 years ago in a crash along the 41.

Their friend, Suzannah Lawrence, lost her grandmother nine years ago.

They all say this should've been done decades ago.

"Multiple people have lost their lives," says Davis. "It's heart-wrenching."

Says Lawrence: "When it's done I'll believe it - it's been 20 years in the making."

Patterson says the next step now is crucial.

The state transportation administration needs to add this construction funding to its Transportation Improvement plan for 2022, otherwise it won't get built.

Assemblyman Patterson says he's officially requested a meeting with Secretary Kim with the state transportaton agency to discuss a funding plan for the project.

He hopes that will take place in the next coming weeks.

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