FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — Central Valley leaders and activists were dealt a victory in the fight to widen a dangerous stretch of Highway 41 on Friday.

They have been calling for the roadway between Elkhorn and Excelsior avenues to be increased from two to four lanes.

Assemblymember Jim Patterson said he’s once again hopeful after plans to widen the six-mile stretch of Highway near the Kings County border will move forward. This comes after the state’s initial opposition to the project, saying it is against increasing capacity on highways.

“This stretch of 41 is not a capacity-building project. It is a gap closure. It is a critical safety project,” he said.

The project would expand the highway eliminating a dangerous bottleneck.

“This is a project that Caltrans was going to do in the early 2000s and when the downturn came it disappeared. So it needs to reappear, and they need to finish this gap,” Fresco County Supervisor Buddy Mendes said.

The highway has seen several deadly crashes. Lorna Roush lost a loved one and heads the Widen Highway 41 movement.

“I don’t mean to get emotional but it’s just, this is a long battle, and to know that Riverdale and Caruthers and all of the Central Valley that travels that road can be a little bit safer,” she said.

Patterson said the California State Transportation Agency will submit a letter of support for the $20 million in federal funding Congressman David Valadao is requesting.

The roughly $65 million project will also be funded locally.

Patterson said it must now must get on the 2022 transportation improvement plan known as ITIP to move forward.

“If we get to the finish line with state, federal, and loan funds and in the ITIP we will have this project funded and completed,” Patterson said.

Patterson said the group of activists be meeting with state officials within the next few weeks.

The Fresno Council of Governments board members will vote on May 27 on whether to allow Measure C funds to be combined with state funds to finish Highway 41, then it will go to the Fresno County Transportation Authority Board for final approval on June 9.