Tony Bizjak

Back-seat Driver: Is Watt Avenue traffic mess fixed? Post-holiday commute next week will tell

Published: Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 - 6:26 pm

Drivers on Watt Avenue a couple weeks ago got hit with what may have been the biggest area traffic jam of the year when county workers suddenly added two new signal lights and changed freeway ramps at Watt where it crosses Highway 50. It’s at the site of the county’s massive redo of the Watt/50 interchange.

Since then, the county has made a host of little changes there in hopes of improving traffic flow before the holiday period ends and commute traffic ramps up again next week. That involved opening more traffic lanes that had been closed for construction, and connecting cameras to allow engineers to modify traffic signal timing on the fly.

When it comes to traffic, the tiniest changes can have major effects. With that in mind, workers just added a third right turn lane off one of the freeway ramps onto northbound Watt. That means three cars in adjacent lanes can make right turns at the same time onto Watt – on a red light no less – as long as it’s safe.

This week, the county will adjust striping to give cars in the far right lane a better view of Watt. That way, more drivers will feel confident pulling onto Watt on the red light – after stopping, of course – which will get more cars off the ramp quicker, and let the county run green lights longer.

Officials say traffic should be back to normal. In six months, when the project is done, cars should flow more smoothly than they have in years. But Watt commuters know that may not be saying much. Watt, one of the few roads that crosses the American River and connects two major freeways, is overloaded and will remain overloaded.

Even if our new intersections on Watt at the (freeway) ramps run wonderfully, this is a still a challenged corridor,” county traffic engineer Patrick Carpenter said. “The whole corridor will never be a smooth flow.”

The intersections of Watt and Fair Oaks Boulevard, to the north, and Watt and Folsom Boulevard, to the south, will continue to be problems.

Drunken driving arrests

The final tally is in. Seventeen law enforcement agencies in Sacramento County combined to make 414 drunken driving arrests during a three-week period ending Jan. 1.

The biggest arrest day? No surprise, it was Wednesday, Jan. 1, when 36 drivers were arrested. Officer Andrew Bates of the Folsom Police Department, the spokesman for the countywide effort, said most of those arrests are likely to have occurred in the hours just after midnight New Year’s Eve.

Many of those were celebrants suffering from what law enforcement calls the “optimism effect.” That’s when somebody says, ‘Sure, I’ve been drinking, but I’m not falling down drunk, so I’m good.”

Notably, there was only one drunken driving fatality in the county during those weeks, a crash in Galt. That tells police those 414 arrests – and recent anti-DUI education campaigns – may have saved some lives.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

Read more articles by TONY BIZJAK

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