Local, state and national officials join together in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Capital SouthEast Connector project on May 5.

Federal, state and local officials on May 5 joined a groundbreaking ceremony for the 34-mile Capital SouthEast Connector.

The event occurred at the southwest corner of East Bidwell and White Rock roads in Folsom.

As the Sacramento region’s largest approved transportation project, the Connector will link the southern area of Sacramento County to the Silva Valley Parkway interchange in El Dorado County to the east. It will serve as a connection between Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Folsom.

The project aims to link Interstate 5 and Highway 99, south of Elk Grove, to Highway 50, east of El Dorado Hills.

Construction on this four-lane expressway is currently underway at three locations.

One of those sites is Grant Line Road, which is being widened from two to four lanes from Waterman to Bradshaw roads.

This $13.8 million portion of the project, which includes new traffic signals at Mosher and Bradshaw roads, and a 19-foot-wide, multiuse trail, is scheduled for completion next spring.

Also underway is the reconstruction of Kammerer Road from Bruceville Road to Lotz Parkway.

That $13.2 million project, which is scheduled for completion at the latter part of this year, will create a new roadway, and a median, with a travel lane and shoulder in both directions.

The remaining currently under construction portion of the Connector is the reconstruction of White Rock Road, from East Bidwell Road to Prairie City Road. It will create a four-lane expressway that will also include a median, with a travel lane and a shoulder in each direction.

The White Rock Road project has a construction contract cost of $22.4 million and is scheduled for completion in the winter of 2022.

Elk Grove City Council Member Pat Hume, who also serves on the Connector Joint Powers Authority board, described how the Connector can benefit Elk Grove residents.

“You have people living down in Elk Grove that already use this as a corridor to get to other places in the region,” he said.

“And so, having it function better, function safer and be available. God forbid, but be available in the case of a natural disaster or an evacuation route or something like that to be able to handle the capacity of people who need to flee an area. So, there are all sorts of benefits.”

Hume told the Citizen that it is unknown when the entire project will be completed.

“Even if all the planets aligned and all the piles of money got stacked up and we were green light, go, just to work through the process and the actual construction schedule, you’re looking 10, 15, 20 years out for a full build out,” he said.

“And you’re going to temper that with the amount of need. So, as congestion happens, as unsafe intersections present themselves, you’re going to kind of take down the biggest problems first.”

As a project that is not fully funded, the Connector, Hume noted, is a project that needs assistance from various sources.

“We have a great partner in (U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove), who is going to try and get some of that federal infrastructure funding made available,” he said. “Obviously, we keep trying to figure out how to get local match funds in the kitty.

“And the big variable comes down to the state and how much money they’re going to cut loose with, and put behind the project. That’s the big unknown. Kind of like you would eat an elephant, take it down a bite at a time. But even at that, you’ve got to secure some pretty serious money to make it happen.”

Rancho Cordova City Council Member David Sander, who was the event’s master of ceremonies, also described the Connector as a challenging project to fund.

“It’s a vital corridor for the economic health of our county and our region, but it’s a very difficult project to fund, because of its size and its scope,” he said.

“Any project of this size has difficulty finding funding in any one source, particularly in our current infrastructure-funding environment. We’re battling for every dime to do the infrastructure, upgrades and maintenance that needs to be done.”

While standing before a small crowd at the event, Bera stressed the importance of this project.

“This is probably the most significant transportation project that we can be doing to impact our region,” he said. “How we live, how we move goods and services and people around this community.

“If we’re smart and do this correctly, we’re building the infrastructure that’s going to serve us for the next 25, 30, 40 years.”

Bera also mentioned the need to increase high-speed internet access, and build out bicycle trails and other amenities that draw people to areas like Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Folsom.

“We’re also going to fight to get funding for bike paths and, again, all of the amenities that make this a great place to live,” he said.

He told the Citizen that the Connector will lessen traffic in Elk Grove.

“We’ve seen it as Elk Grove’s grown, the traffic congestion, so this is going to help us move more easily around the community,” Bera said.

Assembly Member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, described the Connector as a benefit to the local economy.

“You look at the construction equipment out here, it has created jobs,” he said. “They’re going to help build this Connector. And I think also, you look at Folsom and Rancho Cordova, they’re a job hub, a lot of tech jobs in Folsom. They’ve got a lot of jobs out here. And we do have Elk Grove residents that commute out here on a daily basis, using Highway 50, and at some point, they’ll be able to bypass that. And that will take that burden off of Highway 99, I-5 and also (Highway) 50.

“Think about this: As far as a major, new freeway in the region, this is the first one in 40, 50, 60 years. I think everybody’s excited. It’s been a long time coming. I think this was originally talked about in 1993, so that tells you how far we’ve come.”