The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on July 31 broke ground on a $370 million project to enhance the Interstate 5 (I-5) corridor from a mile south of Elk Grove Boulevard to the American River’s viaduct in Sacramento.

Senate Bill 1 – aka “The Gas Tax” – is providing $48 million in funding for the project.

Scheduled for completion in 2022, the plan is designed to relieve congestion with improvements to the north- and southbound lanes.

This project features the rehabilitation of existing pavement, the construction of new carpool lanes, the installation of new fiber-optic lines, and the extension of the I-5 northbound No. 1 lane for improved merging.

Acting Caltrans Director Bob Franzoia said the project will significantly reduce travel times at peak periods.

“Peak traffic times in the carpool lanes will drop by an average of 13 minutes, and times in other lanes through the corridor will shorten by seven minutes,” he said. “This will save the daily commuter 50 to 100 hours a year.”

More than 150,000 vehicles, including 15,000 trucks, currently use this stretch of I-5 on a daily basis to reach their destinations.

The project will also replace the Casilada Way pedestrian overpass and update curb ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Caltrans spokesperson Dennis Keaton stressed the importance of the project’s pavement enhancements.

“That’s what most people are going to think of, is the bus-carpool lane part of it, but more importantly, it’s going to rehabilitate a lot of the sections (of pavement) that have just taken a beating over the last 25 to 35 years,” he said.

Keaton also noted that the project allows for quicker access between Laguna Boulevard and Elk Grove Boulevard, via the I-5 onramp.

“There’s going to be a dedicated lane now between Laguna Boulevard and Elk Grove Boulevard, where you don’t have to move all the way to the left,” he said. “You can stay in that onramp and follow it all the way down to the next exit.

“It’s huge, (because of) how the traffic impact is bottlenecking right there. I-5 only has two lanes in each direction south of Elk Grove, and that’s where you tend to have a lot of big trucks slow down quite a bit, because you’ve got commuters in the morning trying to get on the highway.”

Keaton said major work affecting traffic is “not scheduled for at least another year.”

“There is no traffic interfering work at this point,” he said. “When we have a schedule, we will release it to the public. Most work that’s beginning is electrical and drainage, and the location(s) are on the shoulder and at night.”

Keaton noted that work will likely not occur simultaneously on both north- and southbound lanes, within close proximity.

“We’re trying not to do that,” he said. “In past experience, we’ve worked on both sides, but not at the same time.