Highway 174 work resumes after fire delays
Caltrans on Tuesday relaunched its widening efforts on Highway 174 that began in August 2020.
A halt in the work was forced for safety concerns after the River Fire began Aug. 4. Efforts were set to continue when smoke from the Dixie and Caldor fires then interrupted road improvements again, leading to a pause to avert health risks.
“My understanding was the contractor (DeSilva Gates Construction of Sacramento) had different safety policies from what Caltrans follows,” Caltrans spokesperson Raquel Borrayo said. ”We can’t force work crews to work. It depends on the contractor’s safety policies.”
This $27.1 million safety project is realigning several curves on Highway 174 between You Bet Road and Maple Way. Also, it will widen shoulders and add a southbound left-turn pocket at Greenhorn Access Road while improving the clear recovery zone for errant vehicles to regain control. Typical of similar Caltrans projects, this initiative anticipates work six days a week, Monday through Saturday between 6 a.m.and 7 p.m.
Borrayo said working at night would create other issues.
“We wanted to avoid disturbing residents’ sleep who live out along there,” she said.
Motorists should anticipate 20-minute delays when driving through the area,” said Borrayo.
“The schedule is subject to change, based on weather, continued poor air quality, availability of equipment or other unexpected events.”
Although residents have reported some motorists letting impatience prompt some to incautious driving behavior, most are abiding by road signs and crew guidance to help drivers negotiate challenging roadway turns.
“We hear pretty regularly from residents about access to driveways, when will construction resume and status of work going on,” said Borrayo. “We have added (lighted) Speed Radar Feedback signs. Along with the posted speed limits, it provides your individual speed at the time and reminds motorists if they’re going the correct speed or to slow down.”
Teresa Goodwin is co-owner of Happy Apple Kitchen, with her sister, Anna Neilsen, at 18532 Colfax Highway in Chicago Park. She regularly commutes to work on Highway 174.
Goodwin said there are a number of bumps because of drainage grates now exposed because of road construction. However, she pointed out there are speed limit signs for 35 mph and one for 25 mph. A number of people complain about the bumps the grates cause. However, that only happens if a driver exceeds the speed limit, in her observation.
“It’s not hazardous,” said Goodwin. “Pay attention and slow down. I have people on my tail. You just have to follow the speed limit and slow down. People who drive it everyday, be patient. They’re going to get it done.”
Margaret Mickelson is a Penn Valley businesswoman who has driven Highway 174 eight to 10 times in the last two weeks, and also is aware of the grates.
“It’s not necessarily unsafe,” said Mickelson. “The fact the lanes are narrower during construction (is concerning). Caltrans has signs warning of bumps. As long as you follow the speed limit, you can navigate the narrower lanes more easily.”
Borrayo said the grates will be made level with the roadbed, but had to shift traffic temporarily to the west side of the road during current construction. Work will shift to the east side and then get a final pave over to make the drive smooth starting mid-month for the west side, and completed on the east at the end of the month.
Despite prior delays, Caltrans still expects to meet its scheduled construction completion date by Thanksgiving, as long as no more fires occur in the area.
William Roller is a staff writer for The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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