Would this fix a longtime traffic problem on a major Merced County highway?

Los Banos residents frustrated with increasing traffic on Pacheco Boulevard have some hope after efforts to install a Highway 152 bypass for the city took another step forward.

The Merced County Association of Governments Measure V Westside Projects Committee on Tuesday voted to recommend prioritizing funding for a Los Banos project that would widen and extend Pioneer Road, from Ward Road to the Merced College Los Banos campus.

The estimated $45 million project, by far the most expensive of the planned Measure V westside projects, is expected to create a four-lane road with a 10-foot bike and pedestrian path along the 6.5-mile arterial. About $44.1 million would be paid using Measure V funds.

Measure V, passed in November 2016 with 71 percent approval by voters, is expected to generate about $450 million in over 30 years for Merced County transportation projects by way of a county-wide sales tax increase that went into effect in April 2017.

The Measure V committee’s westside recommendations to the MCAG included $8.65 million to be allocated to the Pioneer Road project in the next six years.

Los Banos area residents have been clamoring for a bypass route for Highway 152 traffic to go around the city rather than through the heart of it, citing heavy traffic and pedestrian safety, especially for school students.

Currently, traffic between Pacheco Pass and the Merced-Fresno area with Highway 99 cuts through Los Banos.

“The Pioneer Road widening could solve some of our traffic problems by extending and widening the road,” Los Banos City Manager Alex Terrazas said.

Several supporters of the Pioneer Road project publicly commented at the Tuesday meeting that was held at the Los Banos Community Center, said MCAG Executive Director Stacie Dabbs, noting the discussion helped the committee move forward with making the recommendation.

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