Transportation

If you have an early or late flight, avoid this freeway in Sacramento

Here’s how they are fixing the crumbling section of Interstate 5

Caltrans workers repair sections of the Interstate 5 on Sept. 11, 2018 that crumbled twice in August, damaging a number of vehicles and causing traffic backups. Additional sections of the Sacramento freeway were found to need replacement.
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Caltrans workers repair sections of the Interstate 5 on Sept. 11, 2018 that crumbled twice in August, damaging a number of vehicles and causing traffic backups. Additional sections of the Sacramento freeway were found to need replacement.

Caltrans crews will again close lanes on Interstate 5 through Sacramento this week for emergency repairs after two sections of the freeway crumbled last month and potholes damaged several dozen vehicles.

The night closures will allow the state to finish replacing 400 concrete slabs along a 10-mile stretch that investigators have determined are at risk of failing.

The work, which could take several weeks, will occur on both sides of the freeway from the southern edge of downtown to Pocket Road. That work will require lane closures as far north as J Street downtown, Caltrans said.

The closures will begin at 9 p.m. nightly from Wednesday through Saturday. The lanes will reopen at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends.

The state already has replaced 280 concrete slabs in the last two weeks and has 120 to go as part of an emergency $6.5 million fix, project manager Girmay Beyene said.

Each concrete slab is 10 to 18 feet long, one lane wide and 10 inches thick. Most of the freeway’s slabs consist of the original concrete from when the roadway was constructed in 1974, Caltrans spokeswoman Deanna Shoopman said.

The work comes after two slabs on an elevated freeway section near Richards Boulevard failed in August. Both slabs cracked and chunks broke off, causing potholes and debris that damaged vehicles during two morning commutes.

Beyene said the cracked concrete likely was caused by repeated pounding and vibration over time from the big rigs that use I-5 as a main commercial route.

The freeway road surface is surveyed by maintenance crews periodically, officials said, but crews did not notice any particular stress on the two slabs that failed.

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Caltrans officials said inspection crews went out again this month - after the two August failures - to identify other concrete slabs that appear to be in danger of immediate failure. Most at-risk slabs are in the number three and four lanes, typically used by commercial trucks.

The current work is an emergency prelude to a massive freeway overhaul and widening project that will begin next year. That $370 million project will take three years to complete and require long periods of daytime lane closures.

It involves laying down a new asphalt surface over the existing concrete slabs, including the 400 slabs being installed this month and next month, Caltrans official Sergio Aceves said.

The work includes adding carpool lanes from Elk Grove to the southern edge of downtown.

About $15 million of the funding for the project will come from a state gas tax hike, according to Caltrans. The 12-cent-per-gallon increase at the pump was approved by the governor and Legislature last year. Opponents are asking voters to repeal the tax through Proposition 6 on the statewide November ballot.

The state has been collecting funds from the tax hike since last year. Earlier this year, the California Transportation Commission awarded the $15 million to Caltrans for this project.

Caltrans officials say that will allow them to take advantage of gas tax funds to help finance the I-5 project next year, even if state voters repeal the tax hike in November.

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