Back-Seat Driver

East Sacramento County expressway takes step forward

Cars drive along White Rock Road near Scott Road in Sacramento County on Thursday, July 19, 2012.
Cars drive along White Rock Road near Scott Road in Sacramento County on Thursday, July 19, 2012.

It’s not cheap to build a new road these days. How much? Try $10 million per mile.

That’s the rate for a 5.5-mile, $54 million road project planners are launching this spring in east Sacramento County on the southern edge of Folsom. It’s not just any road. It represents the second segment of a long-planned expressway called the Capital SouthEast Connector that eventually will curve for 35 miles around the back side of Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Folsom, providing east county commuters with an alternative to highways 99 and 50.

If fully built, at an estimated $334.5 million for its initial phases, the expressway would stretch from the Silva Valley Parkway interchange on Highway 50 in El Dorado County on the north, down to where Grant Line Road hits Highway 99. It then would head westward south of Sacramento to connect with Interstate 5. Much of it would follow the Grant Line and White Rock roads alignment, essentially replacing those roads.

The plan is to build it in small chunks over the next decade as money becomes available. Sacramento County built an initial 2-mile section between Folsom and Rancho Cordova a couple years ago, straightening out several dangerous turns and adding shoulders to what had been a narrow rural road that had been doing double duty as a commute corridor.

Now, a joint powers group made up of the three cities and two counties has launched engineering to widen the road east from Prairie City Road to Highway 50. The price tag includes land purchases. The project also will have a separate bike and pedestrian lane.

Officials say they chose that section partly because it sets the table for Folsom development to spill south of Highway 50. Grading work for Folsom’s first group of south-of-50 communities is expected to start this June. Several new interchanges are planned for construction eventually on Highway 50.

It’s prompted some environmentalists and planners to say they hope the expressway will not, in a strange twist, cause congestion rather than relieve it. The Capital Connector joint powers group has agreed to set some money aside to buy or lease easements to preserve open space.

Construction of the next 5.5-mile section is not likely to start until 2018, if fianancing is secured. Work will take several years. Connector officials say they likely will build the following section south to Jackson Highway after that.

The big issue is money. The county Measure A transportation half-cent sales tax has allocated some funds. Officials also will tap developer fees, and will scour for state and federal grants. County officials are considering asking voters for an additional temporary half-cent sales tax increase. If they do, the connector likely will be at the top of the list for some of that money.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee