There is already a fourth lane from Kuehner to the county line, so the project will result in four lanes eastbound from Tapo Canyon to the county line. The work will include bridge widening and soundwalls on both sides of the freeway, along with fiber-optic cable installation to monitor traffic flow. Originally, officials had hoped to widen the freeway in both directions, but because of rising construction costs and state budget problems, the $46.5 million set aside in the state Transportation Improvement Program was enough only for the eastbound side. Transportation officials said they hope to have funding to widen the westbound lanes starting in mid-2008. Plans have already been made to extend the widening to Moorpark, but because of funding uncertainties, officials could not say when the entire stretch would be four lanes. The current project to widen the eastbound lanes from Tapo Canyon is expected to be finished in 2009. SIMI VALLEY – Work is beginning this month to widen one of the most congested stretches of the Ronald Reagan Freeway, a $46.5 million project officials hope will eventually lead to widening the entire freeway from the Los Angeles County line to Moorpark. Government officials and Simi Valley residents welcomed the start of construction at a groundbreaking Thursday at the top of the Santa Susana Pass, marking the start of the project to add one lane on the eastbound side of the 118 from Tapo Canyon Road to Kuehner Drive. “Breaking ground on the first phase of the 118-widening project is very important to the city, the county and the region,” Mayor Paul Miller told the gathering. “This will allow our residents and others to spend more of their time out of their cars and doing other things that are important to them – more time with families, focusing on their jobs or just having fun.” The widening comes as Caltrans crews are working to expand Highway 23 from Moorpark to Thousand Oaks, another key route for east Ventura County commuters. The plan is to add one lane in each direction by 2010 from the Ventura Freeway to Moorpark. Once that’s done, Caltrans wants to revamp the 101/23 interchange, where traffic bottlenecks each morning and evening during rush hour. Elected officials at Thursday’s groundbreaking said traffic congestion has become one of the most important issues for eastern Ventura County residents. “It takes a lot of money and a lot of work from a lot of people to make this happen,” county Supervisor Peter Foy said of the freeway widening. He is among the local residents who lose 20 minutes to an hour a day when traffic is congested during commutes from Simi Valley to the San Fernando Valley. Simi Valley City Councilwoman Barbra Williamson said the widening project will help the people of Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks who have been hoping to see the freeway expanded for decades. “It’s been a long, long road,” she said. [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!