Cars, pickups and big rigs rushed along Highway 99 on June 3 as the California Department of Transportation’s Sacramento area director explained plans to fully close a section of the artery in Sacramento for more than four days.
Both directions of the highway will be blocked off from 8 p.m., Friday, June 11 to 4 a.m., Wednesday, June 16, Caltrans District 3 Director Amarjeet Benipal said at a press conference. The closure will run from 47th Avenue in the south to the Highway 50 interchange in the north. During the shutdown, crews will replace the aging bridge deck of the 21st Avenue underpass.
For a commuter town like Elk Grove, where many residents get to work in personal vehicles, the closure could have a major impact.
The purpose of closing the highway completely “is to allow the work to be accomplished quickly (and) safely for the construction workers, along with the traveling public, and minimize the impact on our local community at the same time,” Benipal told reporters.
He continued that the 62-year-old bridge is nearing the end of its service life, and it’s showing signs of age such as corrosion and cracking.
Benipal noted Highway 99’s importance for the Sacramento region, noting the “closure will certainly cause an inconvenience to the traveling motorists during that time.”
According to the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census, an estimated 46% of Elk Grove's population commuted to work in 2019, with 89% of those commuters making the trip by car, truck or van. Figures that show the effect of the COVID-19 related lockdown was not available.
So what can people who take the highway do while it’s closed?
“First and foremost, please avoid, avoid, avoid” trips on Highway 99 during the 4 days, Benipal said. He suggested taking advantage of telework and telemedicine options or making trips before the closure.
For necessary trips, the director advised public transportation “as a first option,” noting that vehicle traffic will be rerouted to Interstate 5.
Caltrans advises drivers to take northbound I-5 if they are traveling from Elk Grove to Sacramento, or southbound I-5 if they are driving from Sacramento to Elk Grove. Drivers in Elk Grove can access I-5 from westbound Elk Grove Boulevard and westbound Laguna Boulevard.
Sacramento Regional Transit will offer free light rail services from June 12-15. Their closest light rail station to Elk Grove is at Cosumnes River College, which has a 533-Blue Line stop.
If few people take steps to minimize traffic, delays could stretch to 2 1/2 hours, Benipal said, but “with your help, we expect that delay to be reduced to less than one hour.”
Though fully closing Highway 99 to traffic will cause headaches for many, Benipal said Caltrans found this plan preferable to the alternatives.
“We could have done it as one night at a time, which would have taken six months to do,” Benipal said in an interview. “And that was going to cause not only inconvenience to the traveling public because we have to close the lanes for a long time, but at the same time, the construction which continues to be in the neighborhood.
“So through the input of our local partners, the decision was made to actually use the accelerated bridge construction program, where we get in, finish the work and get out, and stay out for a long time.”
The $5.9 million project is funded through California’s Senate Bill 1, which was signed into law in 2017 and provides funding to jurisdictions for road maintenance and improvements.
To learn more about the closure, visit Caltrans’ informational webpage at www.FixCac99.com.
Citizen News Editor Cameron Macdonald contributed to this story.