The State Worker

State workers ponder options to avoid commuting nightmare

State government’s fix for Fix50’s disruptions on Monday? Flexibility.

One department allowed staff to job-swap to dodge the traffic mess on the I-5 corridor. Another is expanding telecommuting for the duration of the project. And state officials say they’re assessing the impact on operations and have a menu of options ready to deploy if needed.

Ryan Mekata, a 38-year-old system software specialist for the Department of Technology, said he switched jobs with a colleague.

Mekata, who lives in Elk Grove and takes an E-tran bus to downtown Sacramento, traded work with another software specialist who lives in Natomas and normally commutes to Rancho Cordova.

“The IT support jobs, we do have flexibility,” he said. “Wherever you do it, the work is very similar.”

So Mekata took back roads Monday morning and arrived to work in about 30 minutes. His usual bus commute time is about 45 minutes.

It was an easy drive, “at least for the first day,” he said, although he expects today could be drastically different: “Some people may try the freeway first, then try an alternative tomorrow.”

The department plans to switch Mekata back to his downtown job after Fix50 is done, but he might be flipped earlier “depending on work circumstances,” he said.

As Monday morning wore on, some of the 73,000 state employees who work in Sacramento County described their drive to work on social media and in emails to The Bee.

Leena Mann, a employee who lives in West Sacramento and commutes up the 50 corridor to the Franchise Tax Board campus near Rancho Cordova, emailed that “it took almost 20 to 25 minutes to just get on 50 from Jefferson (Boulevard).”

Once she made the freeway, Mann blazed down the road at 5 mph or less until she cleared the Highway 99-Business 80 offramp.

To help her cope until the freeway project is finished in June, her manager has agreed to let her telecommute two days each week instead of her usual one day.

Franchise Tax Board spokesman John Barrett said there’s no one-size-fits-all fix for Fix50 disruptions, but that managers at the sprawling complex are assessing the impact on operations and will consider a range of options, including “expanding schedule flexibility.”

Although the most dire Fix50 predictions envisioned a frothing traffic jam spilling onto other major freeways and surface streets, many state workers said their morning drive was a breeze.

An informal poll on the Bee’s State Worker blog showed that nearly 60 percent of respondents saw zero impact on their commute, while only 8 percent said their drive was more than 30 minutes longer.

Medical Board employee Sheila Ray’s email about her drive to her Arden Way-area office exemplified the majority: “We had a good commute this morning, NO TIE UPS!!!”