State highway officials say Sacramento commuters could face delays of up to an hour when the planned W-X freeway project closures hit next month – unless drivers alter their commute times or travel routes, or choose an alternative mode, such as transit or carpools.
Caltrans’ local highway chief, Jody Jones, said the agency’s warning of one-hour delays on local freeways starting April 22 represents a “worst-case scenario,” and is unlikely to happen as the state and local employers get word out about options for altering travel habits.
Caltrans will close several lanes of the downtown freeway at a time, in intervals, between April 22 and June 25 to allow work crews to rehabilitate the freeway surface between 18th and 26th streets. Several onramps and offramps, and connector ramps with Highway 99 and the Capital City Freeway, will be closed at times during the project.
“If your commute from Rancho Cordova takes 25 minutes (typically), it will take an hour and 25 minutes,” Jones said. “But that’s only if people don’t change their travel behavior.”
She said Caltrans is in discussions with local transit agencies about helping cover costs for extra bus and light-rail service during the construction period, and with local cities about funding extra traffic-management steps. The state and cities are suggesting employers talk with employees about altering their work hours during that period to avoid the peak commute hours.
After taking heat from local officials, Caltrans announced this week that it had revised its project plans, extending the work period two weeks longer, allowing it to close fewer lanes at a time. The new plan calls for a maximum of three freeway lane closures at one time.
“The new plan is a tremendous improvement,” said Sacramento County transportation planner Dan Shoeman. He said the county is still encouraging its employees to consider taking transit, biking, walking or other alternatives.
Crews will work day and night, including weekends from April 22 through June 25, with a break for the Memorial Day weekend, when the Sacramento Music Festival and Jubilee takes place.
Jones said Caltrans has tried to design the project to avoid construction and lane closures while major events were going on in Sacramento, in particular the Fourth of July week, and the State Fair in July. Work is planned to end the day before California State University, Sacramento, hosts the National Track and Field Championships.
The project work will overlap, however, with the opening day of the Amgen Tour of California bike race, which will take place in downtown Sacramento on Sunday, May 11.
City and county traffic officials say they expect major surface streets to be affected by the project, but said they can’t be sure where the worst hot spots will be until the closures happen. Sacramento police said they will add extra officers to help guide traffic in troublesome intersections.
Caltrans is directing commuters to review the project website at fix50.com for updated information.
Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.