A huge roadway project in the heart of Sacramento is scheduled to start Tuesday, April 22, and until it starts no one really knows how it's going to affect traffic on surrounding freeways and surface streets. It's the rehabilitation of the section of U.S. Highway 50 often called The WX Freeway, a stretch that carries about 250,000 cars per day.
Insight guest host Pamela Wu spoke with Caltrans District 3 Director Jody Jones and the Jerry Way, Director of Public Works for the City of Sacramento, about the project.
*This excerpt from Insight has been edited for clarity purposes. Listen to the full interviewhere.
Insight: Caltrans has dubbed the project Fix 50, but drivers are wondering if it’ll be worthy of another moniker “carmageddon.”
Joining us is Caltrans District 3 Director Jody Jones and Jerry Way from Director of Public Works for the City of Sacramento. Give us the basics. Why does Highway 50 need to be fixed?
Jody Jones, Caltrans: The deck on this particular section of W/X is cracked all the way through in numerous places. So we really need to put a new deck on it or it won’t last. Traffic will be restricted to the outside three lanes in eastbound direction. And the contractor will be working on the inside three lanes in the eastbound direction.
Insight: Do you think that traffic is going to flow normally on the open side of the freeway, the side that’s not being worked on?
Jody Jones, Caltrans: I expect there’ll be some delays, just because some people will be looking to try and see what’s going on. But if they can keep themselves from doing that, the westbound should flow normally.
Insight: Previously, CalTrans was going to have traffic in both directions share one side of the freeway while the other side got worked on. Now you’ve scrapped that. Jerry what’s your reaction?
Jerry Way, City of Sacramento Public Works: We’re extremely pleased that CalTrans heard us. We had a collaborative process, originally the plan was too extreme for us, bigger impacts than what we were hoping for.
Insight: Serious delays are still expected, of course, I’ve heard up to an hour in some cases.
Jody Jones, Caltrans: If no one changes their behavior. But if folks heed our warnings and take light rail or transit or bike to work or work from home or flex their hours…we get people to do that and that hour delay should significantly be reduced.
Insight: One of the most common questions that we’ve been getting here at Capital Public Radio is what is the best detour to get to and from the airport coming from east of the project.
Jody Jones, Caltrans: I would suggest take 50 West to Business 80, Business 80 to Watt Avenue, get on Interstate 80 and take that to I-5 out to the airport. The capacity that’s left on Highway 50 is sufficient to take the through traffic and we haven’t posted detours onto city streets. Because we really don’t want that through traffic to get off the freeway and wander the city streets. So the folks that live here and know how to get around on other city streets or alternate freeways, we’re hoping, they’ll take a look at a map and plot out their destination so that the through traffic can stay on the freeway and not clog up the city streets.
Insight: Jerry this isn’t the city’s project. But you’re going to be providing a lot of support. What is the preparation that you’re doing?
Jerry Way, City of Sacramento Public Works: Signal timing changes at some key intersections. We’re restriping in areas that’ll help improve some flows. We have substantial amount of police personnel that are going to be helping. We are in the process right now, working with our IT folks, who are doing a great job of getting some live video streaming available to the public so we can forward some camera images, that folks can go to, we have a total of 96 cameras available to monitor the traffic. We have an incident command model that we’re going to have in place at City Hall. Where we’re going to have a diverse group of emergency responders, police, fire, CHP, etc. Sacramento Go, formerly the Sacramento Transportation Authority, is providing emergency towing service along the W/X. As you know anytime a vehicle gets disabled when you already have reduced number of lanes. That’s critical to get them towed away, so that operation will be in play.
Insight: Will transit agencies offer more services throughout the Sacramento Region.
Jody Jones, Caltrans: Yes, Sacramento Regional Transit will have additional trains and buses. Yolo bus will also. And they’re also subsidizing tickets from the Amtrak station in Davis. The Elk Grove Transit provider is offering additional service, as is, the north Natomas shuttle bus.
Insight: Why is the work not being isolated or just kept to nights and weekends.
Jody Jones, Caltrans: We actually looked at that and considered it in conjunction with both the city of Sacramento and West Sacramento and it would’ve taken two or three years.