Work is scheduled to start in February or March on the highway widening from Railroad Avenue to Loveridge Road. The $172 million Loveridge Project will provide eight lanes (four in each direction), including a car pool lane, room for eBART tracks in the highway median and a new bridge at Loveridge. As occurred with the past widening, there will be delays and detours, mostly after midnight, during the three years of construction.
“Obviously, there’s going to be slowdowns,” said Susan Miller, project director for the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. “I’m just optimistic that people will be so excited to finally see construction going on that they will deal with it.”
Motorists haven’t seen much construction in a while because the past year has been devoted to redesigning the widening to accommodate an eBART line in the median from the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station to Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch, acquiring additional land right-of-way, relocating utilities and obtaining necessary permits. But things will be heating up soon along the entire corridor and continuing for the next five years until it’s finished in 2015.
Hard on the heels of the Loveridge Project will be the $436 million Somersville Project, which has been broken into four segments to make it more manageable. Construction is expected to start next spring on Segment 1, which reconstructs the Somersville Road interchange. Also next spring construction will begin on Segment 3A, which reconstructs the Lone Tree Way/A Street interchange and Cavallo Road undercrossing.
In doing so, project planners will be jumping over Segment 2, which is the Contra Loma Boulevard/L Street interchange and G Street overcrossing. That segment isn’t scheduled to start until the spring of 2011 due to the extra difficulty in working around Kirker Creek, which passes through the area.
A date hasn’t yet been set for starting construction on the final portion of the project, Segment 3B: the Hillcrest Avenue interchange. There’s a possibility that the Hillcrest bridge won’t need to be reconstructed, saving millions of dollars, according to Miller. The big question mark concerns the location of the Hillcrest eBART Station. Funding is available to build it near Hillcrest Avenue, but Antioch officials are hoping more money will be found to place it further east to tie in to a planned transit-oriented development of townhouses, offices and stores.
In addition to the highway widening, construction is planned to start next spring or summer on the eBART line, focusing first on the transition platform where East County riders will get off the eBART train and walk across to a waiting BART train.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding it does not appear that much construction activity will take place on the Highway 4 Bypass next year, according to Dale Dennis, program manager for the State Route 4 Bypass Authority. The only scheduled work will be the placement of a rubberized asphalt overlay on Marsh Creek Road next May or June.
That will mark the completion of the entire project to Caltrans standards, allowing it to be transferred to state control, and returning the old Highway 4 – Main Street in Oakley and Brentwood Boulevard in Brentwood – back to the control of those cities. “That will make it much easier for the cities of Brentwood and Oakley actually to make improvements,” said Dennis. “Dealing with the state can be somewhat arduous. Some city staff have indicated putting a (traffic) signal in has taken three years to get through the bureaucracy of the state.”
Next June, trucks will be allowed to travel the length of the bypass without being required to get off at the middle segment from Lone Tree Way to Balfour Road.
While many residents would welcome getting trucks off city streets, Val Tompkins, who owns A&A Auto Parts on Brentwood Boulevard between Delta Road and Lone Tree Way, is concerned about its effects on local business. “When they bypassed downtown Tracy and moved traffic off of old Highway 50, it destroyed all of downtown,” said Tompkins. “There were places that you couldn’t give away. Restaurants, service stations, dealerships closed up because of the lack of traffic through there.”
Because funding for the bypass comes almost entirely from fees on development of local housing and businesses, which has nearly come to a halt during the recession, plans for further road improvements have been put on hold. Those include interchanges at Sand Creek Road, Lone Tree Way, Balfour Road and Highway 160, along with widening of the Lone Tree Way-Balfour Road segment to four lanes. Enough land right-of-way has been acquired to eventually accommodate an eight-lane highway with an eBART or other mass transit line in the median.
Dennis said officials are trying to obtain some of the federal stimulus funding for the bypass, which has proven to be a tall order so far despite the advantage of several shovel-ready projects. When the $789 billion stimulus “was first discussed, there was supposed to be somewhere between $80 billion and $120 billion for transportation projects,” said Dennis. “As it worked its way through the sausage production process in D.C., that was reduced to $30 billion. California ended up getting only $2.7 billion, which for a state the size of California is really, really ineffective.”