Prompted by several recent truck crashes, state highway officials plan to start grinding the road surface on a section of Interstate 5 in south Sacramento this weekend to give it more traction in wet weather.
State Department of Transportation officials said they will send crews out Sunday night to rough up the freeway surface near the Seamas Avenue/Fruitridge Road interchange.
“Traction for this section has lessened over the last five years due to wear and tear by traffic,” Caltrans local spokesman Steve Nelson wrote in an email to The Sacramento Bee.
Freeway work at the site is expected to continue through Wednesday night, and will include repairs of the sound wall and center median, both of which were damaged in recent crashes. The work will involve lane restrictions between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.
That section of roadway, a few miles south of downtown, has a slightly curved embankment. A southbound big rig crashed there in the rain on Dec. 10, hitting a truck in the northbound lanes and killing the driver of that truck. The rig ended up on top of the freeway center median. The crash forced closure of the northbound side of the freeway for hours, causing massive backups.
Two more big-rig crashes occurred there on Dec. 21 in wet conditions, resulting in one minor injury. One of the rigs ended up straddling the center median.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the crashes. Officials there said this week they have not yet determined what caused the crashes.
Caltrans crews last week conducted friction tests on the freeway at that site and determined the road surface does not have enough grip. Highway officials declined to discuss the issue, but said briefly in an email that the upcoming work will meet state standards for traction.
“The grinding will significantly improve the friction on the road surface and is expected to meet the standard,” Nelson wrote.
The grinding work, using diamond cutters on a drum, will take place for about 250 feet on all lanes of the interchange bridge in both freeway directions, Nelson said.
He said the state is not conducting friction tests on other areas of the freeway, but said, “Our investigation is ongoing.”