Back-seat Driver: No more Blood Alley on Highway 99

Tony Bizjak
Tony Bizjak

Every metropolitan area, it seems, has a Blood Alley or two on its outskirts, and for many years, Highway 99 and its sister Highway 70 between Sacramento and the Marysville-Yuba City area unfortunately earned that reputation as a crash-prone stretch. They were highways in name, but really they were long, straight, two-laners with no median barriers but plenty of crossroads.

Much has changed over the last decade. The two roads have been dramatically molded into real highways – faster, yet safer. Soon, the last two signalized intersections on 99 will be gone, replaced by interchanges. (Highway 70 has one more signal left that someday will be become an interchange.)

This month, Sacramento County officials will formally open an Elverta Road interchange. A few months later, to the north in Sutter County, officials will open a Riego Road interchange.

The interchanges aren’t cheap. Each costs $31 million and is designed wide so that Highway 99 someday can go eight lanes across. The overpasses are four lanes wide to accommodate more traffic if and when the Elverta Road area east of Highway 99 gets developed. Sacramento officials meanwhile say Elverta and Elkhorn roads may eventually link directly to Sacramento International Airport, so people in Placer County and north Sacramento County won’t need to use Interstate 5 to get to their flights.

White Rock Road curve

One lesson from the Highway 99 project is that it takes years to finance the reconstruction of a major road.

That’s also the case for a project in eastern Sacramento County that could turn Grant Line and White Rock roads into a major connector road to serve as an alternative to Highway 50. (There has been concern whether the new road will prompt development to spill into the open east county hills. The Board of Supervisors recently OK’d one project, Cordova Hills, in the hills east of Grant Line Road.)

The first portion of the new connector road, a small section near Prairie City Road, will be finished in the next month or two, officials said. The $17 million project widens the road to four lanes and eliminates that inexplicable zig-zag on White Rock that required drivers to slow nearly to a stop.