Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

Sacramento commuters will have to deal with lane closures on the W-X section of the Capital City Freeway starting in May.

Editorial: Caltrans must space out major Sacramento road projects

Published: Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014 - 11:39 pm

It doesn’t take a traffic expert to know that doing multiple road projects – in close proximity all at the same time – is not smart.

Yet so far, Caltrans, with its legions of engineers, hasn’t definitively reached that common-sense conclusion on three major undertakings in Sacramento. It does say it will not simultaneously close lanes on all three projects during “high traffic” periods and is working to minimize problems.

The priority is the long-planned repair of the crumbling W-X section of the Capital City Freeway over central Sacramento. Construction will close three lanes, first eastbound May 2 to May 22, then westbound May 28 to June 17.

Just west of that stretch, Highway 50 repaving would close one lane in each direction on the Pioneer Bridge over the Sacramento River. While the contractor told The Bee’s Tony Bizjak that the plan is to hold off until after the W-X project is out of the way, there is no official word from Caltrans. It does say all work will happen at night and on weekends.

There’s also an ongoing project on Interstate 80 in Natomas, which could also worsen congestion during the W-X work. Again, Caltrans has not confirmed when the I-80 project will resume, though it now plans to open an eastbound car-pool lane early, before the W-X work begins.

There were discussions Monday on scheduling, but no final decisions. Caltrans says there could be an announcement Friday.

Local officials are right to be steamed. They need time to plan for motorists using surface streets and for emergencies. It isn’t just a concern for commuters; it’s a public-safety issue if police cars and ambulances get stuck. With good planning and communication, there’s no reason for this much uncertainty this close to the project start date.

By itself, the W-X project is going to be bad enough. Local officials expect that rush-hour congestion will spread to I-5, Highway 99, I-80 and city thoroughfares. Why increase backups with more roadwork nearby?

Call it what you will – “Carmageddon,” “Carpocalypse” or just plain traffic nightmare – but it is a situation that Sacramento motorists need not face.

Caltrans is still trying to repair its reputation from the cost overruns and still-unresolved construction questions with the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. Gridlock in California’s capital city is the last thing it should want.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board

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