Back-Seat Driver

Back-seat Driver: Expect backups on Highway 50 all weekend

Tony Bizjak
Tony Bizjak

Thousands of drivers got caught in a massive, hourlong backup on Highway 50 through downtown last weekend when construction crews closed several lanes for deck repairs. Get ready. Here it comes again.

Caltrans will close two eastbound lanes of Highway 50 on the Pioneer Bridge over the Sacramento River for resurfacing Friday at about 7 p.m., and will keep those lanes closed through the weekend.

Officials say the delays likely will not be quite as bad as last weekend, possibly in the half-hour range, mainly for drivers headed toward the Pioneer Bridge from West Sacramento, Davis and the Bay Area. Drivers who don’t need to take that route should stay away, Caltrans says.

The lane closures could last until Monday at 5 a.m., but crews last weekend finished similar work on the westbound side and were able to reopen by Sunday afternoon. Traffic should be OK westbound during the days, but crews are expected to close some lanes westbound each night, causing delays.

Tumbling trees

Highway 50 has been closed on and off in the mountains just beyond Pollock Pines the last two days because of the massive King fire. Officials don’t take closure of a major highway lightly, but reports from the scene say this closure not only helped fire crews get around, it was essential for public safety.

Officers Thursday took photos and eerie-looking videos of the empty highway shrouded in swirling orange-lit smoke. One video shows a falling tree, possibly 80 feet tall, slamming onto the road with a force that could easily crush a car. It wasn’t evident from the video, but that may have been one of dozens of burned trees that Caltrans crews have been cutting down along the highway so that they don’t fall on cars when the road reopens.

Tree-cutting crews are expected to be on duty on the highway for the next couple of days, Caltrans’ Steve Nelson reported.

Sobriety checkpoints

State law requires law enforcement officials to publicize ahead of time when and roughly where they plan to set up sobriety checkpoints. It also requires them to put up signs in front of a checkpoint, warning drivers of what’s ahead, and offer drivers an “out,” an intersection where they can make a last-minute turn to avoid being stopped.

With that in mind, the California Highway Patrol has put out word it is planning a checkpoint Friday somewhere in the unincorporated north Sacramento County area from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Officers will have state-of-the-art breath testing devices at the ready. But the point is not to make a bunch of arrests, they say. They want to persuade some people not to drink and drive, or not to drink very much.

“We know people drink,” CHP spokesman Chad Hertzell said. “We’re just saying be aware; bring a designated driver. We are going to be out there.”

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