(FOX40.COM) — If you had to use a movie title to describe Sacramento freeway construction, you might call it “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” The Caltrans website lists three dozen current projects at various stages in District 3, which includes much of the Sacramento region.
Many of the projects involve freeway widening and repaving. That describes what is happening on Interstate 80 over the Yolo Causeway between Davis and Sacramento: a $280 million project with a target finish date of December 2027.
There is also a $39 million dollar widening project along Interstate 5 in Sacramento from Arena Boulevard to the Yolo County line, scheduled for a summer 2025 completion.
Another project underway will improve the Capitol City Corridor, also known as Business 80. That one has a 2027 target completion date.
But the biggest one currently under construction is the $471 million Fix 50 project through Downtown Sacramento, which has been active since March of 2021.
According to Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton, a combination of project approvals, gas tax dollars, and federal transportation bill money allowed so many large projects to be greenlit, some sooner than expected.
“You don’t really say, ‘Let’s try to have them all start around the same time,'” Keaton told FOX40.com. “You’re just trying to get the projects available and ready to go once the funding comes in.”
Keaton said Fix 50 is 75% complete and on track to be finished around the end of 2024. There are literally many layers to the project.
“We’re taking up the old concrete that was placed down in the late 50s, early 60s,” Keaton explained. “So what we’re doing is going two feet down and essentially taking up all of the old concrete and then putting down new concrete. But you still have to put all of that steel that’s underneath.”
Fix 50 is especially complex because much of the widening involves adding more structure to sections of the elevated freeway through Central Sacramento.
Some of the freeway work is going to slow down over the next few months simply because of the weather. The paving cannot be done if conditions are too cold or too wet.
“We’re always hoping that the weather cooperates,” Keaton said. “We’re always hoping that the temperature cooperates.”
Navigating Sacramento’s freeway construction zones is not for amateur drivers, especially at night when a lot of the roadwork is going on.
Caltrans does the work at night to minimize the impact on commute traffic and make it easier and safer for construction trucks to enter and exit the work zones without a lot of traffic on the highway.
But during work hours, some connecter ramps are closed, and many lanes are reduced, narrowed, or otherwise altered with orange cones.
Just this year there have been 421 vehicle crashes around freeway work zones in Sacramento, resulting in 138 injuries to travelers and two deaths, according to the South Sacramento California Highway Patrol Office, which handles the Downtown area.
“Don’t drive distracted,” cautioned CHP Officer Mark Leavitt. “Don’t drive impaired.”
Officer Leavitt listed the common causes of work zone crashes, “Speed, some unsafe lane changes, following too closely. But most, if not all traffic crashes can be reduced if you just slow down.”
The speed limit in freeway work zones is 55 miles per hour, and fines are doubled if you get a ticket in one.
Officer Leavitt encourages drivers to think about the highway workers.
“Just remember that they’re out there,” Leavitt advised. “They’re making a living. They’ve got families at home. And you don’t want to put them in danger just because you’re late to work or late to a meeting.”
A recently completed I-5 improvement project near Downtown Sacramento offers evidence that the inconveniences that come with freeway construction are temporary, eventually resulting in a smoother commute.
“Once it’s done, you’re talking about a 21st-century type of highway instead of the old highway that we used to have,” Keaton said of Fix 50.
Caltrans has set up a special website where travelers can see all the Fix 50 project updates and daily ramp closures. The site also allows users to sign up for text alerts about road and ramp closures.