Bypass opens Oct. 8

Highway 65 project 15 years in the making
By: Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger Reporter
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Waterfowl glide serenely across water in Markham Ravine. The foothills in the distance frame Target. Signs announcing off ramps give travelers a bird’s eye view of Thunder Valley Casino. These are some of the sights those participating in the inaugural classic car drive of the new Highway 65 bypass will see Oct. 5 as part of the grand-opening ceremonies. The Lincoln Bypass provides a new thoroughfare through the Lincoln area. The bypass begins at Industrial Boulevard, moves traffic around the city of Lincoln, and connects back to the existing Highway 65 near Sheridan. Environmental studies for the future bypass started in 1988 but discontinued so the state could concentrate funds toward seismic retrofitting following major earthquakes in California, Placer County Transportation Planning Agency Executive Director Celia McAdam said. Environmental studies resumed in 1998 and concluded in 2006. Construction of the bypass started Aug. 26, 2008. The first phase of construction is on target to be finished Oct. 7. Motorists approaching Highway 65 from the south will see the new sign for Exit 314 - Lincoln Boulevard. Area media toured portions of the 11.7-mile stretch of the Highway 65 bypass Sept. 28. Reporters and videographers from local television stations filmed segments including footage of an interview with McAdam at the Ferrari Ranch Road interchange and the Nelson Lane interchange leading to Lincoln Airport. The Lincoln News Messenger staff followed a Caltrans truck carrying McAdam, Caltrans Public Information Officer Gilbert Mohtes-Chan, Caltrans resident engineer Carl Berexa and Ciara Zanze of Aim Consulting to the Markham Ravine Bridge, where two lanes are paved and another two lanes under construction will be completed in 2014. The bypass construction breakdown The Highway 65 bypass is a four-lane highway from Industrial Boulevard to Nelson Lane. From Nelson Lane to Riosa Road in Sheridan, the highway is two lanes. By 2014 two more lanes will be added by Caltrans from Nelson Lane to .9 miles north of Wise Road. The final stretch from Wise Road to Riosa Road will remain two lanes until funding can be found to add another two lanes. The highway has 17 bridges at 11 locations. Project partners include the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, Caltrans, California Transportation Commission, the city of Lincoln, Placer County, South Placer Regional Transportation Authority and DeSilva Gates/Flatiron Construction. Phase 1 of the project, which cost $325 million, encompasses the four-lane bypass from Industrial Avenue to Nelson Lane, the two-lane bypass from Nelson Lane to Sheridan and the upgrade of the Ferrari Ranch Road Interchange. The first phase will be completed in time to open to morning commute traffic Oct. 8. The $23 million second phase, extending the highway to four lanes from Nelson Lane to .9 miles north of Wise Road is under construction. No funding is currently available to pay the estimated $27.5 million for the extension of the highway to four lanes for the remainder of the project, according to McAdam. Six sound walls are at the railroad track to Ferrari Ranch Road on the south side of the new freeway, Ferrari Ranch Road to North Ingram Slough on the south side of the freeway, at and near North Ingram Slough on the north side of the freeway edge of the shoulder, North Ingram Slough to the existing sound wall on the south side of the new freeway, North Ingram Slough to Moore Road on the north side of the new freeway and north of Auburn Ravine on the east side of the proposed Highway 65. The weather’s fine Asked if the highway will open in time for morning commute traffic Oct. 8, Berexa said, “It looks like a go.” He explained that the only thing that could delay the bypass opening would be a heavy rain. But, Berexa said, weather reports don’t indicate rain next week. And McAdam agreed by saying, “The weather looks good.” Following the Oct. 5 ribbon cutting, Berexa said Caltrans workers will pave to tie in connections at the south end of the highway from Industrial Boulevard to Twelve Bridges and the north end of the highway Sunday night (Oct. 7). “We’ll be everywhere,” Berexa said, “but primarily at the north and south ends of the highway.” Last-minute work From Friday through Sunday, Oct. 5 to Oct. 7, workers will prepare to connect the southern end of the bypass to the current freeway near Industrial Boulevard. North and southbound traffic on the current detour will be reduced to one lane; northbound Highway 65 on ramp from Twelve Bridges Drive will be closed during the weekend; northbound traffic will be moved onto the new off ramp to Industrial Avenue; traffic barriers at the north and south end of the bypass are removed late Sunday and early Monday. Crews start taking away barriers at the Ferrari Ranch Road interchange and the traffic-signal controlled intersections at Nelson Lane, West Wise Road and Riosa Road. Signalized intersections at Nelson Lane, West Wise Road and Riosa Road set to flash red will be operational for traffic after the traffic switch Oct. 8. S Curve to disappear By Oct. 15, the southbound on-ramp at Industrial Avenue will be closed for about a month for final repaving and realignment work, according to Berexa. Caltrans advises motorists to use the southbound on ramps at the Ferrari Ranch or the Twelve Bridges interchanges. Berexa said construction crews will “get rid of the S curve in the southbound lanes.” Motorists are advised of their speed going into the 20 mph curve in the northbound and southbound directions. That curve has been the scene of multiple accidents. Most of the accidents involve single vehicles, said Cpl. Keith Johnson of the Lincoln Police Department. “The car hit the wall because the driver was going too fast at the curve and lost control of the vehicle in about half the accidents,” Johnson said. “There are times the person’s vehicle hit the wall and the vehicle next to them. Ultimately, the majority happened because of unsafe speeds for the road conditions. Twenty mph is not 50 mph. There’s plenty of warning saying the driver is approaching the 20 mph curve.” From mid-June 2011 when the S curve opened to traffic until Dec. 14, 2011, 15 accidents had taken place at that area of the bypass, including one involving an overturned onion truck and another accident involving a truck carrying groceries. In a short amount of time, Johnson said, the curve will no longer be a traffic concern. Signal timing downtown For those hoping for a smoother, less congested drive through downtown Lincoln, there is no specific date for when the traffic signals will be changed to improve flow. The timing of the signals is tied to Caltrans relinquishing the road to the city of Lincoln. McAdam said she anticipates relinquishment will happen a year after the completion of the bypass. But Caltrans could decide to address the timing of the signals sooner based on the changing traffic pattern, Mohtes-Chan said. Once the bypass opens, McAdam said, 40,000 cars will use the bypass daily with some exiting the Nelson Lane and some Ferrari Ranch Road in Lincoln. At present, 47,500 vehicles a day pass through the city of Lincoln traveling southbound to Roseville and Sacramento on Highway 65 or northbound to the Marysville/Yuba City area. That means a reduction of 40,000 cars a day passing through downtown Lincoln, McAdam said. “Do you live in Lincoln,” a member of the media was asked by locals when he inquired of McAdam why the bypass is needed. “Lincoln is like a parking lot,” McAdam said. “There are seven lights. It’s difficult to get across Highway 65. Traffic is slow and the residents are suffering. The bypass will help local residents reclaim their city. Trucks will still drive through the city but through traffic will go where they need to go via the bypass. It improves access to the airport and encourages economic development.” Changing landscape Mohtes-Chan sees a different Lincoln developing after the through traffic is rerouted around the city. “Lincoln is looking at a rebirth, a renaissance of the downtown,” Mohtes-Chan said. “The town can expand and get more family-friendly activities and entertainment. “If I was a local business owner in a historic downtown, I’d promote local business. It’s tough for all businesses because of the economy but it could be great if you sell it right. Lincoln has an actual downtown and a main street to have a parade downtown without worrying about traffic. In other towns, traffic has to be detoured.” Celebrations The grand opening party starts at 10 a.m. Oct. 5 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Residents can enjoy refreshments provided by Holiday Inn Express. The event is underwritten by DeSilva Gates Construction. About 80 vehicles are participating in the inaugural drive, including NEVs. Members of the public can walk or ride their bikes on a segment of the new bypass from noon until 4 p.m. Oct. 5. Public parking will be available at Holiday Inn Express and the adjacent shopping center. For those who can’t walk, an NEV will shuttle to the Ferrari Ranch Road off ramp. Since only 100 chairs will be set up, McAdam suggests those attending the celebration to bring their own chairs. The community party continues when the city celebrates the renaming of G Street/Highway 65 to Lincoln Boulevard from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 20 with a parade from Auburn Ravine to Seventh Street scheduled from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Other Oct. 20 events include a dedication ceremony at 9 a.m., live entertainment by bands and dancing, a car show, Lincoln Kiwanis pet parade, petting zoo, kid zone, craft booths and store specials. Those who wish to participate in the pet parade can call 303-3661 for information. The parade is open to any and all pets. Children and adults can enter. Stuffed animals may be donated to Lincoln Police and Fire for help with children in traumatic/crisis situations. All participants will receive a participation award. Deadline to register is Oct. 16. Line up starts at 8 a.m. Oct. 20 at 3rd and F streets.