Millions allocated for escape route

Highway 171 one step closer to completion

Congress passed and has sent to President Obama an appropriations bill that will provide funding for a major project in Butte County, according to a newsletter from the office of Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Andy Newsum, project director with the Butte County Association of Governments, confirmed Wednesday that the agency is receiving approximately $2.4 million to widen and pave Forest Highway 171, a 9.6-mile section of dirt road on the Upper Skyway.

“That’s probably the quickest turnaround of federal dollars that we’ve ever seen,” he said.

The project is in the works to provide an alternate escape route for the approximately 25,000 residents of the Upper Ridge communities, who currently must drive down the Skyway in the event of a catastrophic fire or other disaster. The highway will cost approximately $12 million to $15 million. Newsum said an estimated $4 million is still needed to complete the route.

Crews started on the first phase of construction in September on the lower part of the road. Newsum said he’s hoping to start on the second phase in the spring of 2011. The project could be completed as soon as the fall of 2013.