Two big projects are under way on U.S. Highway 101 in Santa Maria and when completed, both should help cut down congestion.

The widening of the Santa Maria River Bridge is the largest project for Caltrans in Santa Barbara County. Travel a few miles south on Highway 101 and you will see the Union Valley Parkway interchange project -- a project that's been in the works for several years.

The Santa Maria River Bridge is expected to cost about $27 million. When completed it will have three lanes of travel in each direction. It is expected to be finished next year.

On the south side of Santa Maria another bridge is taking shape. For many years there was talk of the new interchange at Union Valley Parkway. Now, seeing is believing.

Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers says it took so long because the transportation agency wanted to make sure everything was done correctly. And, they needed the $11.5 million to make it happen.

If everything goes according to plan, the Union Valley Parkway interchange should be completed by the end of this year.