First phase of I-80, Highway 65 interchange fix nears construction

$50M phase will include widening interchange, adding off-ramps at Galleria-Stanford Ranch
By: Graham Womack, Staff Writer
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Backups near the interchange of Interstate 80 and Highway 65 might be one of Placer County’s longest-running and most easily identifiable problems.

Traffic often begins to slow around Eureka Road on eastbound I-80 and Taylor Road in the other direction, becoming a gridlock for drivers as they merge onto Route 65. The problem is so bad that some drivers avoid the interchange altogether around certain times of day.

Placer County Transportation Planning Agency Executive Director Celia McAdam acknowledges that the first phase of a planned improvement project won’t fix everything.

“It’s not solving all the problems of the 80-65 interchange for the rest of time,” McAdam said. “But it does buy you time.”

Various officials were scheduled to attend a groundbreaking Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Destiny Christian Church in Rocklin for the $50-million first phase of the I-80 and Route 65 interchange improvement project.

McAdam said the phase will include widening what’s known as the viaduct section of the interchange. This is where drivers come to the top of the I-80 overcrossing and go from three lanes to two, merging from westbound I-80 onto northbound Route 65.

The first phase will also include adding two off-ramps at Galleria-Stanford Ranch Road, so that drivers don’t have to cut across several lane of traffic to turn into a Costco near the exit.

“It’s becoming challenging-slash-dangerous,” McAdam said of this turn.

McAdam said that the beginning of construction is weather-dependent but that people connected to the project “can start doing preliminary work right away.” She said the contractor has proposed a schedule to finish work within a year.

A greater challenge could be finding remaining funds to finish the rest of the project, which McAdam priced at $450 million.

Placer County voters rejected a sales tax initiative in November 2016, Measure M, that could have provided much if not all of the funding. The measure, which needed two-thirds approval from voters due to California’s Prop. 13, received 63.8-percent support.

McAdam said a bill introduced in the state legislature last year, Assembly Bill 1324, would allow local agencies such as PCTPA to designate sub-districts within counties as special funding districts. She added that this is a two-year bill and that “we’ll see what happens in 2018.”

The $50 million for the first phase came from a hodgepodge of sources, McAdam noted, such as the California Department of Transportation, developer impact fees, and leftover funds from a 2005 federal earmark and Propostion 1B, which California voters approved in 2006.

There might not be too many of these pots of money left.

“We’re looking in the couch cushions at this point,” McAdam said.

Some kind of additional tax for voters in South Placer might be inevitable to fund this project.

“Without a local source of funding — a serious source of funding like a sales tax — another $400 million is decades,” McAdam said.

McAdam, incidentally, is retiring and was commended during a Nov. 13 speech on the Congressional floor by Rep. Tom McClintock.

Roseville vice mayor and former Highway 65 Joint Powers Authority board member Bonnie Gore said she wasn’t worried about McAdam’s looming departure or funding for the improvement project.

Gore said McAdam had done “a very good job,” but that PCTPA was well-positioned and in the process of recruiting a successor.

Asked if she was optimistic that the full interchange improvement would be completed, Gore said she was, “because there’s a need and it’s one of the highest needs we’ve identified in Placer County.”