After several days of commuter respite, the Fix50 project reasserted itself, slowing traffic in two directions and giving commuters second thoughts as they headed for Sacramento.
Traffic was beginning to ease - slightly - as commute hours waned Tuesday, but the first day of work on the westbound portion of Highway 50's W-X stretch over the capital squeezed motorists and added time to their travel schedules. Traffic is expected to be slowed throughout the day.
Backups on Highway 50 reached well beyond Howe Avenue beginning after 6 a.m.; looking south, drivers coming into town on Highway 99 were likewise slowed, as the key interchange where 50 and 99 converge became a choke point.
The slowdown gave credence to traffic officials' predictions of a tough commute as the latest phase of Fix50 work began.
At one point, traffic came to a dead stop on westbound Highway 50. Commuters looking for an easier ride help jam up important surface streets such as Folsom Boulevard, which flows into the biddown and downtown grid
Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton said drivers needed to brace themselves.
"We're trying to get commuters (not to take that ramp) and to go up Business 80 instead to N Street," Keaton said.
"It could be a long commute this morning," he said, correctly predicting the fate of many motorists
The westbound side of the freeway is constricted to just two lanes at the Highway 99 interchange. The cone closure area starts about a quarter mile east of Stockton Boulevard, and traffic crawled through the interchange area.
"I suspect the westbound project will be more challenging than during the eastbound work," said Officer Rich Wetzel, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, early Tuesday morning. "The number of commuters from El Dorado County, Rancho Cordova, East Sacramento, and south of Sacramento (is) certainly greater than those traveling from the west during the first project."
Wetzel did not recommend surface streets as alternate routes.
"Why? Tens-of-thousands of commuters would overwhelm any surface streets, especially since many are just one lane in each direction having traffic signal lights that are not adjusted for mass commutes," Wetzel said. "The locals will know the alternate surface streets."
The ramp from northbound 99 to westbound 50 has been reduced to one lane that is causing backups that could become long as the commute progresses.
The ramp from westbound Business 80 to westbound 50 is reduced to one lane and is beginning to back up.
The 16th Street offramp is open, but crews have left an orange ramp closed sign at the top and that is causing many drivers not to take the ramp.
The 26th street offramp is open, but few drivers are taking it.