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Solution to Highway 101's biggest bottleneck at least seven years away

Extending Measure M at this point is not an attractive option, Smith said, because the cost of borrowing that far ahead is expensive.

Marin County's Measure A sales tax is not supporting the Narrows project, Steinhauser said. Those funds were spent on Highway 101 widening around San Rafael.

Marin is widening its side of the freeway incrementally, including in two spots that should be ready early next year — an additional southbound lane from Novato Creek to Franklin Avenue and a northbound lane from Atherton Avenue to just south of Redwood Landfill.

Agencies are looking for state and federal funding, but Smith doesn't expect money from Sacramento or Washington in the near future.

"In terms of state and federal funds, we don't expect to see a lot of that on the horizon," she said.

A Congressional ban on earmarks makes federal funding for specific projects hard to come by, Steinhauser said.

In the meantime, officials are preparing the highway for the final 12-foot wide strip of asphalt — whenever funds become available — and preparing drivers to expect bottlenecks until at least 2020.

"We made a choice to do the safety improvements first," Steinhauser said. "While we are able to make the roadway safer, we are not able to widen the road all the way at this time. That's going to be frustrating for drivers."

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.