Back-Seat Driver

A look inside some of Sacramento’s congestion hot spots

Commute traffic eastbound on Highway 50 near the 59th Street exit.
Commute traffic eastbound on Highway 50 near the 59th Street exit.

We asked drivers last week to list the area’s congested roads they feel are most in need of relief. We got tons of response.

Notably, many readers say traffic congestion around Sacramento has never been worse. This week, we look into what is going on at some of the hot spots they pointed out. Next week, we will write about readers’ congestion-relief proposals (with a focus on fixes that do not simply involve widening freeways with even more lanes).

▪ Brian Arena is among those who nominate the Exposition Boulevard and E Street ramps onto the Capital City Freeway as examples of classic bottlenecks. The culprits are the narrow American River bridge and the squeeze caused by the Union Pacific railroad overpass on the south side of the bridge. Caltrans has launched discussions on potential fixes, but nothing notable, sorry to say, is expected for years.

▪ Intersections near shopping centers like the Westfield Galleria and Arden Fair are the worst of the worst during the holiday season, which starts right about ... oh, last week. Barbara Holmquist of Roseville says even intersections blocks away, like Five Star Boulevard and Stanford Ranch Road, are maddening. “I really dread shopping up there come holidays.”

▪ Thinking ahead, Richard Raisler points to a section of Highway 50 where traffic is not awful now but eventually could be. The city of Folsom plans to allow thousands of new homes on the freeway’s southern flank. If Folsom does not also add a lot of jobs, the area is just going to be another exporter of daily commuters onto 50 and White Rock Road.

▪ Jarrett Oddo nominates the Howe Avenue and Watt Avenue bridges as the most “daunting” parts of his journeys. He notes that rush hour seems to start now at 3:30 p.m. He’s started adding an extra 20 minutes if he needs to cross those bridges during the afternoon and evening rush. “I have dropped some crosstown activities due to the excessive traffic,” he says.

▪ Peter Hays and others are perplexed by the increasingly stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 80 in Solano and Yolo counties. The freeway plays a little squeeze-and-ease trick on drivers, going from four lanes at Vacaville to three at Dixon, then four again past Dixon and back to three from Davis to West Sacramento. It leads to an aggravating kind of congestion that some call “accordion” traffic jams.

▪ Jerry Marr is among many upset by years of congestion at Caltrans’ freeway widening on I-80 through North Sacramento and Natomas. It will be worth studying in a few years whether the added lanes amount to long-term congestion reduction, or if, as Natomas building starts up again, the freeway will just clog again. The answer may lie in whether officials ever get light rail built out there.

▪ The improved economy is putting more commercial trucks on the road, adding to traffic tie-ups. But it’s not just on urban freeways. Jim Potter reports about “dangerous conditions” on I-80 in the mountains. Big rigs often seem to travel in clusters. When one passes another, it generally inches slowly by, making other drivers anxious and causing some to spurt past faster than they should when the lane is clear again.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak