Caltrans is warning Sacramento drivers to stay away from Highway 50 at the Pioneer Bridge over the Sacramento River this weekend.
The state plans to shut several lanes in each direction for about a half-mile between Sacramento and West Sacramento for resurfacing, as well as several downtown freeway ramps intermittently, potentially causing traffic backups on nearby Interstate 5.
“We want people to avoid the area as much as possible,” Caltrans construction chief Andy Alvarado said on Thursday as the state agency issued an all-points bulletin.
The state will begin closing lanes and ramps at 10 p.m. on Friday and will keep them closed until 5 a.m. Monday, when all lanes will be reopened for the morning commute.
Officials declined to estimate how long traffic delays may be, but similar lane closures on local freeways have led to half-hour delays at times. The California Highway Patrol will put extra patrols on the freeway, and officials are warning drivers to be aware of the potential for stopped traffic ahead when driving on downtown freeways.
People driving to and from Davis or the Bay Area should use Interstate 80 in West Sacramento and Interstate 5 north of downtown in the Natomas area. A second alternative is to come over the Tower Bridge, but that route could be congested at times as well.
The $25 million project involves grinding down the existing road surface, then adding a new inch-thick overlay. It will require several more all-weekend closures, as well as numerous nighttime closures during the workweek. Those smaller closures, which have been causing backups, typically run from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The project is expected to be finished by Labor Day, the first week of September.
Between now and then, state officials say drivers who use the Pioneer Bridge should consult the Caltrans’ website, http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/, to check real-time traffic congestion levels, and go to the Pioneerbridgeproject.com for project details.
Alvarado said the state is closing so many lanes at once this weekend – and on a few weekends to come – because officials want to get the project done quickly.
“There is no way to do it without backups, so it is like ripping off a Band-Aid,” Alvarado said. “Let’s get in there, get the work done and get out as soon as possible.”
The project stems from a failed resurfacing project in 2014 that left large portions of overlay on many freeway lanes peeling and pockmarked. Some ruts were more than 50 feet long and 7 feet wide, and deep enough to cause cars and trucks to shudder as they passed over.
Caltrans officials said the material used for that overlay failed to properly adhere to the freeway deck. That initial work cost $6.6 million – part of a larger $26 million SacDeckedOut project.
The current redo will cost about $25 million. State officials say the higher cost is because crews are laying down an inch-thick polyester concrete surface, using large paving machines, instead of the initial 3/8 -inch rock aggregate and resin surface that was hand-squeegeed onto the bridge deck. The current project also involves the cost of grinding away the failed surface.
Caltrans chief Malcolm Dougherty told The Bee in April that the state had previous success with the thinner, less expensive material in the past, but decide to do the fix with the stronger material to avoid further problems, given uncertainty about why the previous material did not stick to the bridge deck.
“We have already had failure; I don’t want to go through another iteration of that,” Dougherty said. “I want to move forward with the highest level of confidence.”
Dougherty said the state would pay the extra cost from its highway maintenance account, then likely will file a claim with the manufacturer of the resurfacing material. Sacramento-area construction chief Alvarado said the state will sit down with the manufacturer of the previous material and attempt to negotiate a cost share for the new work.
Randy Slezak, a representative of the manufacturer, Kwik Bond Polymers of Benicia, said the product has worked without problems on other projects, including on the Business 80 bridge over the American River in Sacramento.
Officials with the subcontractor that did the overlays, American Civil Contractors of Benicia, have not responded to Bee requests for comment.
Myers & Sons, the contractor on the initial job has won the contract to do the repair work. Alvarado said the state choose Myers because it submitted the lowest bid, does good work and was not believed to be responsible for the previous failure.