Lezlie Sterling / Bee file, 2008

A worker sprays sealer on Interstate 5 five years ago. Caltrans officials liked the public's response to the I-5 closure then and expect people to react similarly during the W/X freeway fixes.

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Fix50: Will travelers get to airport on time?

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014 - 4:38 pm

The state’s plan to close several lanes of Highway 50 in May and June has Sacramento International Airport officials and local travelers asking: Will fliers get to the airport on time?

For many travelers in the Sacramento region, Highway 50 is a central path to the airport, linking with Interstate 5 downtown. But three lanes of Highway 50 will be closed in each direction for up to a month starting Tuesday. Work will be conducted 24 hours, seven days a week until the project is finished in late June. Caltrans officials, who are resurfacing the elevated freeway, say traffic delays could top an hour during peak travel times. Delays could extend to other freeways, such as Highway 99 and I-5, that connect to 50 downtown.

Airport officials have sent alerts out in 11 Northern California counties, urging fliers to review the closure schedules and consider backup or alternate routes before heading to the airport.

“It is obviously going to have an impact on travelers, (but) we don’t know how much,” airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said. “I don’t think anybody knows.”

Diane Anderson of Rancho Murieta is busy gathering information for an alert of her own – to her son from Portland so he can figure out how to get to and from the airport when he visits in May and again in June. She hasn’t told him about the closures yet.

“I’m reluctant to do so, actually,” she said. “Afraid he might postpone his visits ... but, of course, I’ll have to tell him so he can make the best possible arrangements.”

That may be tricky for some. Depending on construction progress, closure schedules could change with only a few days notice.

The schedule calls for three eastbound lanes of the freeway, between 18th and 24th streets, to be closed from April 22 to May 21. The far more significant impact on people driving to the airport will take place between May 27 and June 25, when three westbound freeway lanes, the direction many take to the airport, will be closed.

That schedule should at least give people who must drive to the airport in June a few weeks to observe the impact of the eastbound closures.

“Our basic message is to plan ahead,” airport spokeswoman Slothower said. “Caltrans hasn’t given alternative routes. We are telling people to use the (information) resources available to them to make the best decisions.”

Those include Caltrans’ www.fix50 website, www.sacbee.com/transportation, television website and traffic reports, Google maps (for alternate routes), as well as the airport’s Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Typically, airlines advise fliers to get to the airport 90 minutes before their flight’s scheduled departure. Slothower said drivers should add more time to their itineraries, then hope for the best. “You might have extra time to enjoy the shops and concessions at the airport,” Slothower said.

Caltrans officials say they will have all lanes open around Memorial Day, May 22 through May 26, when people come downtown to attend the Sacramento Music Festival and Jubilee, and when many Northern Californians head to and from Lake Tahoe.

Sacramento River Cats officials also suggest their fans leave home a little earlier during the weeks that westbound Highway 50 is closed. A team spokesman said the River Cats have added more than 200 parking spots this year close to the stadium to make at least that part of the journey shorter and easier.

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

Read more articles by Tony Bizjak

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