The traditional gift for first-year anniversaries is paper.
But Caltrans marked its one-year anniversary of getting federal stimulus dollars by breaking ground on the construction of the Highway 99 overpass, north of V Street.
The project started earlier this month, and the official anniversary of the state being awarded $21.5 billion in American Reinvestment Act (ARA) funding came Wednesday.
Overall, $2.5 billion in ARA funding will be committed to nearly 900 transportation projects statewide by the end of the month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday in a news release.
The local project will replace the 48-year old overpass on the 99, correcting structural deficiencies, improving sight distance for drivers and providing clearances for the railroad. Retaining walls will also be built.
The two Bear Creek bridges will also receive a makeover. The bridges will be seismically retrofitted, and construction workers will create vehicle pullouts for maintenance trucks.
"The highway is a really important corridor," said Caltrans spokeswoman Lisa Balcom, "because you have goods moving up and down the highway."
This project also helps return money to surrounding communities, she added. "The people that work at these jobs are people who shop in the area," she explained. "These people will put money back in the local economy."
The Merced project costs $34.3 million, and $29.8 million of that is federal stimulus funding.
Traffic shouldn't be affected because most of the construction will be done in the evening, Balcom said.
The only construction delays Caltrans expects would be related to weather. The estimated completion of the overpass and the two bridges is spring 2012.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.