Frustrated motorists forced to slog to work in the morning and crawl home at night on congested Highway 4 might be wondering why not much appears to be happening on the Highway 4 widening project since the completion of the Loveridge Road interchange more than a year ago.
The good news is that planning and design work is underway. The bad news is that construction on the next segment, from Loveridge to Somersville Road, won't begin for another year the summer of 2009. The project was set back when it was decided to place an eBART line in the highway median.
Not long after that, things will start to take off on the highway project. In the spring of 2010, construction will begin on much of the highway up to Hillcrest Avenue except for the section from Contra Loma Boulevard to Lone Tree Way, which is due to start in the spring of 2011.
The goal is to complete the widening from Loveridge to the Highway 4 Bypass sometime in 2015, coinciding with completion of the eBART line from the Bay Point BART station to Hillcrest Avenue.
The updated highway construction timeline was presented at an Antioch City Council workshop on May 20. While everyone welcomes the widening of the highway, getting there with nonstop construction along that corridor for five or six years could create traffic problems, especially for those crossing the highway.
I am concerned about the internal circulation, said Mayor Don Freitas. Those are crtical north-south corridors for the high schools, for the middle schools and things of that sort. So, I'm sure for the entire City Council, we're very concerned about the internal circulation during construction, especially when construction is going to go for several years.
Susan Miller, project manager for the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, responded that a construction management firm has been hired to help make sure the impacts on motorists are minimized.
We will have so much construction occurring concurrently. You're right, she said. That's exactly why we need to work with city staff, with businesses, with schools to make sure that we do have that coordination between (the various construction phases).
To make the process more manageable, the highway widening has been broken into several smaller projects. The portion from Loveridge to Somersville roads is planned to start a year from now and take three years to complete at a cost of $142 million.
In order to accommodate eBART in the highway median, the widening project has undergone a redesign and new right-of-way land has been purchased. In the next year, a large gas line and 13 transmission towers will be relocated.
The remainder of the widening, from Somersville to the Bypass, will cost $504 million. It's so large it's been broken down into four smaller segments:
Segment 1 Somersville to Contra Loma is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2010 and end in the winter of 2012.
Segment 2 Contra Loma to Lone Tree Way is not scheduled to begin until the spring of 2011 due to extra design problems in this area, such as accommodating the endangered red-legged frog and nearby development. It's scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2013. Contra Loma will be a full two-way interchange, but G Street will become an overpass.
Segment 3A Lone Tree Way/A Street to Hillcrest is planned to start in the spring of 2010 and finish in the winter of 2012.
Segment 3B Hillcrest to the Bypass the construction time frame has yet to be determined. Currently there's a $37 million funding shortfall that might result in the Hillcrest interchange being postponed until funding is available.
Freitas said that he and City Manager Jim Jakel are working with the mayors and city managers of the other East County cities to jointly lobby for the federal funding to make up the $37 million shortfall.
One of the things under consideration is the aesthetic look of the project. There's some real challenges there, said Miller. I think we are making very good progress. Hopefully, we'll be coming to you some time in the near future with some ideas we have on the aesthetics of the corridor. It's quite exciting.
Noting that Segment 2 is not going to get underway for a year after construction has already started on segments 1 and 3A, Miller said, We wouldn't want to leave a hole in the middle if we felt there was going to be a significant lag in funding. So we will be very careful about how funding is lining up, how the construction is going, how the detours are working through the city of Antioch.
This is going to be a lot of construction going on out there concurrent. We want to make sure all of that is lined up and have a good feeling for how that's occurring before we go forward.