Back-Seat Driver

Back-seat Driver: Highway crews will blast ‘stubborn’ boulder

Tony Bizjak
Tony Bizjak

The planned lane closures starting April 22 on Highway 50 downtown have been getting a lot of headlines lately, and rightly so. It’s going to be a concussive event. But another Highway 50 closure this Sunday morning in El Dorado County will make some noise of its own.

Officials will call in blast crews to blow up a stubborn slab of volcanic rock in the freeway median at Silva Valley Parkway to make way for a new interchange.

Workers will put a rubber blast mat over the rock to mute the explosion and keep rock shards from flying onto the freeway. But, for safety, they’ll close the entire freeway – all lanes, both directions – for two hours, from 6 to 8 a.m., between El Dorado Hills Boulevard and Bass Lake Road.

Signs will guide drivers on a detour. The closure is happening Sunday morning because that’s typically when traffic is lightest.

Contractors were trying to dig holes for the interchange’s pilings when they ran into the rock a few feet underground, said Aradhana Kochar, the county engineer for the project. “They tried excavators and hammers. But we just can’t get rid of it.”

Fix50 and you

The big Highway 50 freeway lane closures are coming 11 days from now as part of a road surface reconstruction project downtown. The project will take place on the busy elevated section of Highway 50 known as the W-X freeway. From everything we hear, it could cause the biggest traffic backups any project ever has caused in Sacramento.

There is some good news, perhaps: Caltrans hired contractor C.C. Myers, famous statewide for fixing freeways fast. When we asked him about this project, he shrugged. “Just another job,” he said. But the more he talked about it, the more excited he got.

Caltrans is offering Myers a carrot: pay bonuses if he can beat deadlines. He usually does.

So what does it mean for us? Unfortunately, there are no set detours, or even suggested detours. Drivers need to review the project closure schedules and decide which closures on which weeks will affect their commute.

One strategy is to simply drive right into the gantlet on the freeway and see what happens. Caltrans is closing only three lanes at a time, and only on one side of the freeway at a time, leaving at least two lanes always open in each direction.

The easiest place to view the closure schedule is at At The Sacramento Bee, we are already compiling stories, tips, interactive maps, updates and live freeway traffic tracking at . We’ll also be tweeting and posting updates on in the first hours of the first days.

For those who don’t have Internet access, we’ll be publishing maps and lists of all closures, as well as frequent stories.