Interstate 80/Highway 65 Interchange Improvements Underway in Placer County
A Vital Route: Multi-Phase Project Will Relieve Major Bottlenecks, Improve Safety Along Interstate 80 and Highway 65
In California’s Placer County, located in the Greater Sacramento metropolitan area, nearly every motorist has experienced the major bottlenecks on or near the Interstate 80/Highway 65 interchange – in both directions and at all times of day, with traffic frequently coming to a complete stop.
Constant (and growing) traffic demand has exceeded the capacity of the interchange’s three-decades-old design, resulting in long traffic delays, wasted fuel, and serious safety issues. As an illustration of the importance of the exchange and the serious need for enhancement, it is estimated that Interstate 80 carries $4.7 million dollars an hour in goods movement, while the Highway 65 corridor is the location of dramatically expanding commercial and professional business growth.
However, for what is one of the Placer region’s busiest interchanges, solutions are on the horizon – construction has begun on the $50 million first phase of the Interstate 80/Highway 65 Interchange Improvements Project. Caltrans District 3, which is the project owner and is managing the construction, has partnered with the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency (PCTPA), Placer County, and the cities of Roseville, Rocklin, and Lincoln to create a phased project designed to revamp the exchange in stages as funding becomes available.
PCTPA Executive Director Mike Luken reports, “One of the major reasons for this traffic congestion is that the interchange was designed and built in the mid-1980s when the county’s population was 136,000 people. Thirty years later, the interchange needs a major upgrade and reconfiguration to accommodate the nearly 210,000 vehicles that use the interchange every day.
“Without improvements to the Interstate 80/Highway 65 interchange, the average evening commute from Interstate 80 at Riverside Avenue/Auburn Boulevard to Highway 65 at Blue Oaks Boulevard is expected to more than triple within eight years, from 9 minutes to 35 minutes. However, upon project completion, the same evening commute will take about seven minutes. In addition, with the improved traffic flow in the project area, the number of congestion related accidents will decrease, which is expected to result in overall improved safety.
“Even with existing and additional growth in traffic, by 2040 the Interstate 80/Highway 65 Interchange project will reduce delay for travelers in south Placer County during the morning and evening peak periods. The benefit of these improvements for the local economy is estimated at $77 million annually in time savings.”
Luken also points out that Interstate 80 and Highway 65 are vital for emergency evacuations in the eastern part of Placer County, which is susceptible to high forest fire hazards. “It is important to develop and maintain transportation infrastructure for emergency access and to help get citizens to safety quickly and efficiently. We don’t know where or when the next disaster will hit, but we do know that we need to have a strong transportation network in place to allow for timely emergency response and assistance. It can truly be a matter of life and death. This first phase is tremendous start, but there is a lot more to do.”
Phase one of the Interstate 80/Highway 65 exchange project commenced in April 2018; even with work suspension during this past winter, due to rain and cold temperatures, completion is scheduled for 2020.
Colorado-based Flatiron Construction Corporation, one of the nation’s largest heavy civil infrastructure contractors, was chosen for the phase one construction. This first phase will provide a third lane on northbound Highway 65 from Interstate 80 to Pleasant Grove Boulevard and improvements to the Galleria Boulevard/Stanford Ranch Road interchange.
“What people cannot see from above is all the construction going on below along the East Roseville Viaduct,” says Luken. “Construction crews have drilled 12, 13-foot-wide by 100-foot-deep foundation holes, which they’ve filled with rebar and concrete. These foundations will support the twelve new 60-foot-high columns used to support the new third lane.
Funding and Future Phases
The total project cost is estimated at $450 million. After completion of the $50 million phase one, the remaining $400 million cost will eventually add one lane to each of the four connectors between Highway 65 and Interstate 80. At present, PCTPA has maxed out the local funding sources and will need to find other local funding sources to move forward on future phases. Once funding is secured, design will begin on the next phase.
Future improvements will eliminate the eastbound to northbound loop ramp in favor of direct connections between Highway 65 and Interstate 80. They also include maintaining the existing Interstate 80 access at Taylor Road and eliminating the weaving movements on Interstate 80 eastbound between Eureka Road and Highway 65. One lane will be added to each of the four connectors between Highway 65 and Interstate 80, and carpool lane direct connectors will be constructed from eastbound Interstate 80 and northbound Highway 65, and from southbound Highway 65 and westbound Interstate 80.
Environmental and Public Considerations
PCTPA began developing concepts for the interchange revamp in 2010, and a preferred alternative was approved in 2016. Two alternatives had been proposed, and a collector-distributor system ramps option was finally selected as the preferred alternative. It encompasses several components including the construction of high-speed connector ramps, an additional lane to each connector ramp, the addition of an HOV direct connector between Interstate 80 and Highway 65, and local interchange ramp improvements and street widening.
During the six-year environmental review phase of the project, PCTPA maintained a regular schedule of public outreach events, including community meetings, focus group meetings, public hearings, and presentations. The Federal Highway Administration approved the improvements in September 2016, and the groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held in December 2017.
In addition to weather issues, other challenges have been addressed as the project progresses, reports Caltrans Resident Engineer Jeff Johnson. “The contract was advertised as a cost-plus time contract, which the contractor bid the minimum allowable time. By bidding the minimum allowable time, this expedited the contract from a planned three-season project to a two-season project. To maintain this expedited schedule, extensive planning, coordination, and timely resolution of issues was required.
“Before work commenced, the project partners worked together to secure a second temporary access point to the construction project to keep the project on schedule. Bridge demolition was originally planned to occur at night with nightly lane closures. As this project was in close proximity to a nearby multi-family residential complex, even though it met Caltrans noise standards, the project was restaged to allow for the work to occur during the day while keeping the project on schedule.
“Several design changes were identified during the construction phase of the contract. A continued effort with construction, project development and the contractor facilitated the re-design of these items, without impacting the construction schedule.
“There are also numerous environmental restrictions which limit work windows in and around Antelope Creek. The limited work windows required constant coordination and communication with our stakeholders to keep the contract on schedule while meeting our environmental commitments.”
An Economic Benefit
The Interstate 80/Highway 65 Interchange Improvements Project will make life much easier for the hundreds of thousands of motorists who travel the route daily. As Luken points out, among the groups who will see definite benefits are the shoppers coming to this growing retail area. The revamp will provide local and regional travelers better access to the Galleria Mall, Costco, Scandinavian Designs, the Stanford Ranch area of Rocklin, and other businesses, making shopping in the area that much more convenient.
“This project will also be a tremendous benefit to economic development in our region and to the economy as a whole,” Luken states. “It will allow citizens and employees in our area to spend less time sitting in traffic and more time with their families, at their jobs, or wherever else they might like to be.
“The local economy has already experienced a significant positive economic impact due to the construction project. More than 100 full-time construction workers are dedicated to keeping this project moving along and are at the construction site daily. This benefits our region as these workers are staying in nearby hotels, eating lunch and dinner in local restaurants, and shopping before and after work.”