PLACER COUNTY -- A long-awaited upgrade to the Interstate 80-Highway 65 is set to begin construction soon.
Local, state, and federal transportation agencies have raised $50 million to get started on the first phase of the project, to add a third lane on northbound Highway 65 from I-80 to Pleasant Grove Boulevard, and make improvements to Galleria Boulevard and Stanford Ranch Road.
Bridget Powers, incoming director of the county's Transportation Planning Agency, has been using the interchange for 20 years. Lately, she says her commute from Auburn to Roseville has been getting unbearable.
"I already know some secret, go-around, different routes, and different routes to try and avoid Highway 65," she said.
The artery was built in the mid 80's, when Placer County's population was only 136,000. It has since tripled -- more people, more cars, more congestion.
In the last six years, the bottleneck situation at the interchange has contributed to daily traffic accidents and 13 deaths.
The solution -- expand the freeway.
"It will make for a much easier commute in and out of the area, and for people shopping at the Galleria mall," Powers said.
The small section is just a start. Expanding to three lanes for the rest of the interchange will come, once the agencies come up with the remaining $400 million to complete the project.
"It's going to be critical for Placer County to have some sort of sales tax or other funding sources where they can bring forward to be completing the rest of the improvements," Caltrans District 3 Director Amarjeet Benipal said.
The first phase of construction will begin in the spring and is expected to wrap up in December 2018.