Caltrans predicted it, and they were right: The delays caused Tuesday morning by Fix50 project lane closures on westbound Highway 50 downtown turned out to be much more disruptive to commute traffic than the previous closures on the freeway’s eastbound side.
“We expected westbound to be much worse, and it was,” Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton said. “It was about as bad as we thought it could be.”
The westbound lane closures which began Monday night on a short stretch of the elevated W-X section of freeway downtown affect many more commuters from eastern suburbs, Keaton said. Traffic on Highway 50 backed up as far as Watt Avenue during the peak of the morning commute, causing half-hour delays, some commuters reported.
Traffic also backed up on Highway 99 for more than a mile, as far south of Florin Road, bringing the right lanes of the freeway to a halt.
Delays on Highway 50 continued through late morning. As of 11:30 a.m., traffic remained thick and moving slowly toward downtown from about 39th Street.
Current closures, the third of four over a two-month period, are scheduled to last two weeks, through June 10. The closures will be in place 24 hours a day, every day until then.
They will be followed by what Caltrans officials say likely will be a more intrusive set of 24-hour closures, again on the westbound side of the freeway, that will run from June 11 to June 25. Those closures will include the connector ramps from Highway 99 and Business 80 to westbound 50.
Keaton said it is possible that many commuters on Tuesday tried to get to work on the two open downtown lanes of Highway 50 rather than take alternative routes or use alternative modes, such as light rail.
He said Caltrans officials hope more drivers alter their commute Wednesday.
Downtown worker Adeline Yee, who lives in El Dorado County, delayed her commute Tuesday morning but ran into a slowdown on Highway 50 that turned her average 35- to 40-minute commute into a 75-minute slog.
Yee, who grew up in Los Angeles, said it reminded her of L.A. traffic. She passed the time talking with her mom on her blue tooth transmitter.
“It is hard to imagine, people in L.A. deal with this every day, without any construction,” she said.
She said she will try to go to work earlier on Wednesday. Then she gets lucky, she said: She goes on vacation for three weeks and won’t have to deal with the brunt of the June closures.
The lane reductions for this phase start at about Stockton Boulevard, where cones guide drivers over to the two right lanes. In the heart of the construction area, between 18th and 24th streets, the three left lanes are closed.
Some of the biggest backups were on Highway 99 this morning. One of the two lanes on the connector ramp from 99 to westbound 50 is closed, squeezing traffic and stopping it in the right lanes beyond 12th Avenue.
The connector ramp from westbound Business 80 to westbound Highway 50 also has been reduced to one lane. That caused some backups this morning, but not nearly as bad as on the sister ramp from northbound 99.
Westbound traffic sped up quickly as it passed through the construction zone.
Some city surface streets saw heavy traffic as well, including Stockton Boulevard, Folsom Boulevard and 12th Street.
The Fix50 project is a $46 million freeway rehabilitation effort, including new pavement, new guard rails and seismic reinforcement.