A contingent of California Department of Transportation officials gathered in the Nevada County Board of Supervisors chambers early Wednesday evening to answer questions about the upcoming Raise 80 project.
A few hours prior to the open house hosted at the Rood Center, Caltrans announced the project would be delayed until Sept. 23-24. That’s about two weeks later than officials had announced at an early August press event.
Rochelle Jenkins, Caltrans spokesperson, said the delay is due to a request for more time by the project’s contractor.
The Raise 80 project will lift nine overpasses along I-80 to at least 16 feet, 6 inches, providing “higher vertical clearance for interstate commerce and national security,” Caltrans’ www.Raise80.com website states.
During work on the first phase at Magra Road, traffic will be detoured through western Nevada County for at least one night. Jenkins said it’s possible the second night slated for work — between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. — might not be necessary on Sept. 24. An announcement by Caltrans will be made that morning.
Other than a couple of county residents surveying maps of the project, which will detour traffic from Interstate 80 onto a 56-mile route along the Highway 20/49 corridor, the Caltrans crew on hand Wednesday spent the first half hour of the two-hour open house chatting amongst themselves.
Whether or not more questions would follow, a half dozen or so Caltrans representatives were ready to offer answers for folks concerned about what would be coming down the pike.
Tom Brannon, Caltrans deputy district director of program project management, said much was learned from the last few times traffic was rerouted through the community. And one of those lessons was the importance of public outreach.
“We certainly learned from that, a lot more outreach earlier in the process makes the entire process a lot smoother,” Brannon said. “Other lessons brought out of that were extra CHP assistance with us. It also turned out to be a really good idea to inspect all the (commercial) trucks before you sent them down the (Highway) 20 corridor to make sure everything was mechanically correct.
“So from all those lessons learned, we have a better and smoother way of moving traffic through that short period when we have to detour through that route.”
Recent Caltrans projects at the LaBarr Meadows Road intersection of Highway 49 and reconditioning work on I-80 near Gold Run brought forth complaints over noise from commercial trucks — and their Jake brakes — that were detoured through the area.
“This $36 million project will increase the vertical clearance of nine structures on Interstate 80 (I-80) between Magra and Loomis,” according to a Caltrans news release. “Six of the structures will have the bridge deck raised approximately two feet and three of the structures will have the roadway below lowered to achieve the necessary clearance. When complete, all structures will meet today’s clearance standards.”
Caltrans will be using pilot cars to ensure that semi-trucks and other vehicles maintain safe downhill speeds in an attempt to avoid rollovers, collisions and runaway vehicles. All westbound traffic will be escorted onto Highway 20 from I-80 all the way to McKnight Way on Highway 49 in Grass Valley.
Local drivers on the roadway during the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. time frame should expect delays, however.
“If you’re traveling down the 20 corridor and you’re just a regular person trying to get home, there’s a lot more trucks on the road. So you should schedule more time to make that trip,” Brannon said.
Officials said the date of the next phase for the Raise 80 project, which will be at the Penryn Road overcrossing, is not yet confirmed, but that a projected date of Oct. 18 is currently being reviewed.
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“If you’re traveling down the 20 corridor and you’re just a regular person trying to get home, there’s a lot more trucks on the road. So you should schedule more time to make that trip.”