Californians aren’t typically sentimental about their Department of Transportation, but today, we send Caltrans a big orange-vested valentine.
Fix50, the $40 million freeway upgrade, quietly ended its road-closure phase on Wednesday, six days early and with virtually none of the commuter despair that had been feared by traffic planners.
Oh, yes, there were some jams. And yes, there was grousing. But it was nothing compared to the mess that could have been, considering the extensive work that was required on one of the busiest stretches of road in downtown Sacramento.
Credit goes, in part, to the fast-finishing contractor, Myers & Sons, whose crews worked 24/7 to earn their company’s $3.9 million contractual bonus. With time to spare, they easily met the goal of finishing before the start of the California State Fair here on July 11.
Kudos, too, to commuters, who heeded the calls to alter their routes, use public transit and otherwise avoid the impacted six-lane section of U.S. Highway 50.
But because the buck stops with Caltrans, so should the approbation.
When the city complained early on that it couldn’t plan because Caltrans was dithering over whether to do several projects at once in the vicinity of Fix50, the agency listened, got its act together and reduced the planned number of simultaneous lane closures.
And when it was clear that Capitol traffic could become nightmarish without sufficient warning to commuters, Caltrans’ communications team worked hard with the media to get the word out.
The result was yet another “Carmageddon” that didn’t happen, after a glorious succession of remarkably non-disastrous freeway upgrades in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County.
Here’s hoping that the rest of Sacramento’s freeway projects – and several remain this summer – come and go with similar orange-coned smoothness.
We could get used to this.