“We’re enforcing the speed limits and we’re not kidding,” said CHP Officer Mike Wright. “There are a lot of projects going on in East County and some of the speed limits have been changed to accommodate that construction. Drivers need to be paying attention, because we’re paying attention to them.”
Work on the next phase of the Highway 4 widening project was celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony last week, and construction is slated to begin next month. The estimated five-year plan will result in the expansion of the freeway to eight lanes (four in each direction) just west of the Loveridge Road interchange to west of Somersville Road.
While construction crews are working on Highway 4, the speed limit will go from 65 to 55 mph.
“And it will be strictly enforced,” said Wright. “We’re going to be beefing up patrols all over East County this summer, and what’s important here is that drivers need to be aware.”
And the same holds true for drivers at the other end of the county traveling Vasco Road in both directions. Improvements to the 15-mile stretch of road continue, including a concrete median and southbound passing lane.
“That (Vasco Road) is considered an active construction zone, and where work is being done, the speed limit is 35 miles an hour – and we’re driving it,” said Wright. “We are a strong presence out there.”
There is also the question of what will happen to the Highway 4 Bypass once Caltrans turns it over to local jurisdictions such as Brentwood and Oakley. The Bypass is slated to become Highway 4 in August, and once that occurs, big-rig trucks will join Bypass traffic – a potential problem given its high speeds and congestion.
“When the hand-off occurs it will allow the commercial trucks to come onto the Bypass,” said Wright. “So you can imagine what a 52-foot big rig is going to do to traffic. It’s already a traffic concern; people don’t always understand that the Bypass through Brentwood is not a freeway – the speed limit is 55.”
The toughened-up patrols and adjusted speed limits, said Wright, are just a few of the ongoing public safety measures handled by the CHP. And with the arrival of summer comes an increase in motorists on the road and all that it implies.
“More drivers means more cell phones, more texting and more speeding,” said Wright. “Every year in California, 4,000 motorists die in traffic accidents.” Speed is the most common factor, he added, and one-third of the deadly accidents involve a drunk driver.
“We (CHP) all love working out here, and there’s no question that summer is a busier time for us. We just want drivers to pay attention to their speed, wear their seat belts, don’t talk or text on the phone and do not drive under the influence. We just want everyone to be safe.”