SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — One of the biggest highway projects the Sacramento area has ever seen has turned into one of the biggest headaches for commuters.
From a rise in collisions to an increase in stop-and-go traffic, the Across The Top project has become a major target for driver’s anger.
The project covers a 10-mile stretch from the Sacramento River bridge eastbound to Watt Avenue in Sacramento County. Work has been underway since 2011 to repave the highway and add carpool and auxiliary lanes.
“We’re trying to be the least intrusive to the travelling motorist during those peak commute hours,” Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton said.
They may be trying, but Caltrans can’t ignore driver’s frustration and confusion. And neither could we when we started getting so many emails, with some asking why it’s taking so long and why aren’t more people working on the project.
First off, Caltrans says it’s not doing the actual work.
“All of the work is contracted out,” Keaton said. “Caltrans doesn’t actually do any of the construction on the construction projects.”
The $133 million project is in the hands of CC Myers, a Rancho Cordova-based company known for tackling huge jobs. But Caltrans is the supervising agency calling the shots.
So where are all the workers?
“Well if you go up here eastbound 80 just after you cross the Sacramento river you could see that folks are out there actually doing some concrete demolition work and strengthening the shoulder,” Keaton said.
CBS13 went out several times in the last month and did find work being done. It’s tough to see from a driver’s vantage point. We saw someone picking up cones, and someone else doing some digging. There was also some heavy-duty work being done, but plenty of machinery sat idle.
Caltrans says because the project is so spread out, drivers won’t always see people working.
“Keep in mind 10 miles is a long length,” Keaton said. “You’re not gonna see everyone that’s gonna be involved during the daytime. There is ongoing nighttime work that happens as well.”
Caltrans says part of the reason crews aren’t working around the clock is because of money.
“We’re also trying to keep the cost down on the project,” he said.
As of right now, Caltrans says the project is on budget, but there have been added costs.
In April of last year, two miles of freshly laid concrete along Interstate 80 had to be torn up and redone. Caltrans inspectors called it unsound concrete and made the contractor re-do the work at a cost of $2-3 million.
Who will pay for that mistake is still being negotiated.
Despite that delay and even though it may seem like workers aren’t racing to get the thing done, officials say one of the largest projects Caltrans has ever tackled is on time.
But on time means the project that broke ground in October of 2011 still has another year. Caltrans expects it to be complete by next year.
But by this summer, the road work will shift to the westbound side along the same 10-mile stretch.
“There will be expressways it may be a different set up because the extent of the actual construction may be a little bit different,” he said.
One thing the California Highway Patrol hopes will be different is the number of accidents. Since Caltrans reconfigured the eastbound lanes and reduced the speed limit to 55 mph, there has been a sizeable jump in the number of accidents from the Yolo County line to Watt Avenue.
CHP records show accidents went up year-over-year:
July 2013: 13
July 2014: 30
October 2013: 16
October 2014: 34
November 2013: 13
November 2014: 26
January 2014: 9
January 2015: 45
The CHP blames inattention by drivers for the increase in accidents.
Once a collision does occur, the CHP says drivers are doing the right thing when they’re in the expressway and continuing to drive if their car is still driveable.