Littell last week told the Highway 4 Bypass Authority that despite weather delays, the project had been completed within the number of days stated in the contract, excluding weather delays.
The north segment of the Bypass was fully open in both directions on Sunday - two days ahead of the rain that Littell said he was aiming to avoid. "When the weather broke and I saw the 10-day forecast, I jumped on it. Otherwise, I feared it might not open until April. So I got with (Bypass Authority Program Manager) Dale (Dennis) and laid out my plan. He said go for it, and we've been working non-stop since then," Littell said last week before the opening.
On Tuesday, after the opening, Littell was both relieved and pleased. "We are thrilled about" finishing ahead of the rain, he said. "We put on a full press, nearly round the clock work, about 12 days in row and got it open."
The CHP led the way for Saturday night's westbound opening, performing rolling blocks in which the patrol cars slowly weave across the roadway, prohibiting traffic from passing. The officers exited at Hillcrest, and after that, traffic moved normally. The same ritual was performed for the eastbound opening Sunday afternoon.
"I took the Bypass this morning to come work. I really was impressed how many people were using it," said Jason Vogan, Oakley city engineer, on Tuesday. He expects the traffic to settle into a distinct pattern in a month or so. "The shifting is starting and people are starting to hear about it. It takes time; people have a pattern and it takes them a couple of times to try out the new route," he said.
The new Bypass segment will offer many Oakley residents a shorter route home or to work. When asked how much the Bypass might reduce traffic on Main Street, Vogan said he wasn't sure. "I know those things have been modeled on the computer, but now the model is out the window and we'll see how human nature really reacts."
It seems to be reacting right away. Around 3 p.m., a long backup southbound at Main Street and Vintage Parkway tends to turn the road into a parking lot. On Tuesday at that time, there was little if any backup.
Commuters commenting on the Press Website clearly loved the new route. "It's freaking AWESOME!" one poster said Tuesday. "(It) takes me 25 minutes to get from Brentwood to Martinez now!"
The newly opened Bypass segment connects Highway 4 east of the Hillcrest Avenue exit with the existing Brentwood segment at Lone Tree Way. The Oakley segment includes interchanges at Laurel Road and Lone Tree Way. Eastbound Highway 4 drivers will save significant time by exiting onto the new Hillcrest connection instead of exiting onto Hillcrest and going to Lone Tree Way.
A final segment connecting Brentwood to Byron is expected to be completed in August. Eventually the roadway will become the new Highway 4. According to Littell, that won't occur until the cities of Oakley and Brentwood assume jurisdiction over those portions of the highway running through their downtowns.
He said that designs are being prepared for future widening of the middle Bypass segment, between Lone Tree Way and Balfour Road in Brentwood, as traffic along the thoroughfare increases.