Finally, there’s good news for Sacramento drivers after two months of weekend traffic headaches on Highway 50 downtown.
State officials say they are on track to finish a $25 million repaving job on the Pioneer Memorial Bridge by Friday, making Labor Day weekend the first since July that all lanes and ramps will be open for use.
Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton said crews will, however, close some lanes and some ramps Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights to finish up paving and striping.
“All signs are looking good to be done by (Friday),” Keaton said. “They’re on schedule, and hitting their marks. We appreciate everyone who showed all the patience with all these weekend closures.”
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The project involved extensive closures, including a succession of weekends when all but one lane in each direction was closed to traffic. At one point, the closures caused 45-minute traffic backups.
Construction crews closed freeway lanes and many ramps on weeknights as well, but reopened them in time for each morning commute.
Caltrans construction chief Andy Alvarado said the state wanted to get the project done quickly and not allow closures to drag past Labor Day, when school is back in session and more commuters are on the road after summer vacations.
“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.”
Some of the ramp closures caught drivers by surprise. Caltrans officials said that is because contractors were often working on flexible and unpredictable night schedules, closing ramps as long or briefly as needed to get work done each night.
The project was necessary to fix a failed resurfacing project in 2014 that left large portions of the bridge deck surface 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.
This summer’s $25 million repair job is far more costly than the original $6.6 million pavement project that failed. Highway officials said crews had to scrape away the failed surface, then put down a thicker, more expensive material. The original 3/8 -inch rock aggregate and resin surface was hand-squeegeed onto the bridge deck. The new material is an inch-thick polyester concrete surface that required paving machines.
Caltrans chief Malcolm Dougherty told The Bee in April that the state decided to use the thicker and more expensive 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 plans to 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 was the contractor on the initial job and on this summer’s repair project. Caltrans’ Alvarado said the state chose Myers for repairs because it submitted the lowest bid and was not believed to be responsible for the previous failure.
For information about the project and closures, go to www.pioneerbridgeproject.com.