And once it's done, Oakley and Brentwood residents will breathe a sigh of relief as they reclaim their local streets for local traffic.
"From my perspective, I think this project will give Oakley back their downtown," said Dale Dennis, project manager for the bypass. "I'm sure it will take 90 percent of that truck traffic away. This project will change the whole face of East County."
The bypass is being built in three segments. The middle segment (Segment 2) from Lone Tree Way to Balfour Road in Brentwood was completed in 2002, and has become quite popular with motorists.
Since then, motorists and residents alike have been patiently waiting for completion of Segment 1, from Highway 4 east of Antioch to Lone Tree Way through Oakley, and Segment 3, from Balfour to Vasco roads in Brentwood.
Once the bypass is complete, it will become the new Highway 4. Currently, Highway 4 runs through Main Street in Oakley and Brentwood Boulevard in Brentwood. Those roads will eventually bear more local and less heavy commercial traffic. Oakley residents will be able to hop onto the bypass at Laurel Road.
"While we don't keep an official count of the number of trucks that come through Oakley, we do know that the numbers are large," said Oakley City Engineer Jason Vogan. "When the bypass is complete, we are expecting a swift and serious shift in the amount of traffic. I'm sure that any trucker that can use the bypass certainly will."
Segment 1 is expected to be in operation by December of 2007.
Construction on Segment 3 is set to begin in early November of 2006 and be completed by 2008. The first portion of Segment 3 runs from Balfour to Marsh Creek roads and is expected to be ready by the spring of 2008. The second leg, from Marsh Creek to Vasco roads, is slated to be finished in the summer of 2008.
"When I joined the project in 2003, my job was to accelerate Segments 1 and 3," said Dennis. "There is still more to go, but we have worked quickly and efficiently with Caltrans and other jurisdictions. Our board has been very, very proactive. We have been able to do this because we have put together a good team."
Despite a slow start and the usual red tape involved in getting a project of this magnitude off the ground, Construction Manager Bart Littell said it has in fact been a dream project.
"This has been a career project, for sure," said Littell. "It's the biggest one I've ever worked on before. You don't get many chances to work on something of this size. It's very cool."
It is indeed. For this reporter accompanying Littell in a drive over the newly surfaced overpass on Lone Tree Way ("We're the first ones to drive over this," said Littell), the breadth and depth of the project become visible.
On and off ramps along the existing highway are nearly complete. The five bridges or overpasses are marked by tall cement pillars. Work crews tag their sites with American flags stuck in the dirt, and always in abundance are the orange safety helmets.
Hundreds of contractors and subcontractors have taken the project from blueprints to bypass. Working with nearly all the same crews on the various phases of the bypass has helped.
"Yes, it's a big, big job, but the continuity and ease of working with the same companies sure helps to keep things moving," said Dennis.