One week from today, Caltrans launches its major renovation of Highway 50, a $46 million road surfacing project that’s been dubbed Fix50. The project will take place on the busy elevated section of Highway 50 known as the W-X freeway, and will involve rolling closures of multiple lanes between April 22 and June 25. From everything we hear, it could cause the biggest traffic backups any project ever has caused in Sacramento.
The easiest place to view the closure schedule is at www.Fix50.com. At The Sacramento Bee, we are compiling stories, tips, interactive maps and live freeway traffic tracking at www.sacbee.com/transportation. For those who don’t have Internet access, we’ll be publishing maps and lists of all closures, as well as frequent stories.
To help commuters navigate the closure, Bee transportation reporter Tony Bizjak and other Bee reporters are answering questions about the project. Below is a sampling of questions readers have submitted.
When eastbound lanes are closed, will traffic be normal in the westbound lanes, or will eastbound and westbound traffic share the westbound lanes? – Joel Dobris, Davis
Good question. Previously, Caltrans had planned to squeeze some eastbound traffic into the westbound lanes, but they decided that would cause a big traffic jam and plenty of confusion. The new plan is to allow one side of the freeway to flow normally, with all lanes open, while construction crews close some lanes on the other side of the freeway. Caltrans will then reverse that process.
Given the new plan, it would seem that traffic should flow nicely on the side of the freeway where all lanes are open. But Caltrans is warning people that there will be plenty of “rubber-neckers” looking at the construction equipment across the freeway and at the traffic jam over there. That likely will cause the free-flowing side of the freeway to slow down.
Will the significant delays extend into the weekend? That is, will the project work slow down traffic between 19th and 24th streets on weekends as well, where you have to take detours? – Anna Viana, Sacramento
Caltrans is warning drivers to expect up to an hour delay on weekdays during commute hours. But work will be ongoing 24 hours, seven days a week between April 22 and June 25 (except for a respite during the Memorial Day weekend).
Caltrans officials say they expect weekend delays, but haven’t estimated how extensive those delays will be. Keep in mind that only one side of the freeway will experience closures at a time.
The eastbound lanes are slated for the first set of closures, April 22 through May 21.
I have out-of-town company coming into Sacramento during this construction. How do I advise them to drive from Sacramento International Airport to Placerville? – Jeannette Salmen, Placerville
We’re getting a lot of questions about how to get to and from the airport during the Fix50 closures. Keep in mind, at least some lanes in both directions of the W-X section of Highway 50 downtown will be open at all times during the two-month construction period. So, for driving to and from the airport, you can always give Highway 50 a try.
The worst weeks to use Highway 50 headed from the airport toward Placerville (or Rancho Cordova, Folsom, or Highway 99 toward Elk Grove) will be April 22 to May 21. That is when three of the eastbound lanes will be closed.
The worst weeks to use Highway 50 headed to the airport will be May 27 through June 25. That’s when three westbound lanes will be closed.
Caltrans is not offering any detours, nor is it offering advice. But the agency does have some basic facts and maps that are worth viewing on its www.fix50.com website.
In the case of Jeannette’s visitors, let’s say they are arriving during a week when three eastbound lanes are closed. If they are arriving late at night, they could pull out their smartphones, go to the sacbee.com/transportation page, and check the live traffic map. If it shows Highway 50 is colored green (for smoothly flowing traffic) or yellow (for slow-moving traffic), they could give Highway 50 a try, figuring it could be slow-going but tolerable. If the Bee traffic map shows the freeway is marked red, don’t go there.
If they arrive during the day, especially during commute hours, Jeannette might want to get on Google maps or Mapquest and plot an alternative route. They could try heading south on I-5 into downtown, then cutting through city streets to get to the Capital City Freeway, and take that south to the transition ramp to Highway 50. Or, they could try to get on Highway 50 using the ramp off of X Street at 27th Street. In both cases, they would be accessing Highway 50 just east of the closure.
Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.