March 15, 2007
80/680 interchange could go one of two ways, officials say
By Barry Eberling
FAIRFIELD - Transportation leaders on Wednesday unveiled two proposals for a renovated interstates 80 and 680 interchange: One that rebuilds it at the existing site and one that moves it almost a mile to the west.
The first option changes the ramps at the existing interchange. For example, Interstate 680 traffic would merge onto I-80 in the left-hand lanes, rather than the right-hand lanes, as is now the case.
Having left-hand merge lanes keeps the renovated interchange more compact than using the traditional approach with right-hand merge lanes. Still, several commercial buildings on the south side of I-80 would be removed.
The second option builds a new interchange where Highway 12 at Jameson Canyon toward Napa now joins I-80. Interstate 680 would start swinging west about a mile south of I-80, cutting across a light industrial area in the Fermi Road and Fulton Drive area, which would result in about seven buildings being removed.
With this new interchange built, the existing interchange would be only a memory. STA Director of Projects Janet Adams said it would no longer exist.
Plus, that mile or so of I-680 between I-80 and the new cut-off point would no longer be needed as a freeway. Adams said Fairfield would become the owner of this section.
Each version is designed to alleviate congestion at the county's most notorious freeway bottleneck. Each version can be built in phases, with a $200 million initial phase slated to begin construction in 2011 or 2012, if money is available. Renovating the entire interchange could cost more than $1 billion.
Motorists would still have to be able to drive between the two freeways while construction went on. Adams said there is less effect on traffic with the version that relocates the interchange to the west.
The STA Board saw the two proposals at its Wednesday meeting. It voted to have a workshop at some point in April so the public can learn more about the project and give opinions. A date will be announced later.
A challenge faced by the STA and state Department of Transportation is how to renovate an interchange that has had buildings constructed near it over the last couple decades. That makes for a tight fit.
"No matter what you do, you have impacts," STA Executive Director Daryl Halls said.
A draft environmental study on the project is to come out in November 2008, Adams said.
Also Tuesday, the STA Board approved doing an environmental impact report for the North Connector. The STA had previously been doing a less-involved environmental study.
People raised concerns on such issues as agriculture, preserved farmland, farmland under Williamson Act contracts for tax benefits and a bicycle path that must be relocated. An environmental impact report will allow more in-depth study.
The North Connector is to run from Abernathy Road near central Fairfield west to Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon. Transportation officials said the purpose is to take some of the local traffic off I-80.
Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at email@example.com.
Two plans unveiled for interchange
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer
Article Launched: 03/15/2007 06:36:23 AM PDT
As a result of a Solano Transportation Authority Board decision Wednesday night, two alternatives for improving the Interstate 80/I-680/Highway 12 Interchange area will soon bear public scrutiny.
The alternatives, according to a staff report, represent two approaches: reconstructing in the same general vicinity or configuring a whole new alignment.
Wednesday's meeting marked the public debut of the alternatives, which were the only ones to survive a two-tier screening process meant to eliminate unfeasible options and those that did not fit the purpose and needs of the project. Staff recommends carrying these proposals forward into an environmental review process.
As explained by Janet Adams, director of projects, these options are the best candidates for achieving project goals like relieving congestion, improving safety, and accommodating present and future truck volume. A 2 percent increase in overall traffic traveling through the corridor is projected each year through 2035, she said, bringing daily volume to 270,000 vehicles.
One of the options would reconstruct the interchange area "in the same footprint," Adams said. One feature is that I-680 would enter and leave I-80 in the median part of the freeway.
This alternative "would be more complex to construct," Adams said, "because you're having to construct new road in the footprint of existing road." It would also have "more impact to the traveling public" and more "throwaway cost" during construction.
This alternative would also have greater impact to the commercial element in the area, but as Halls pointed out, "you're not going to impact the industrial area to the west" as with the second alternative.
The second option, as described by Adams, "combines 680, 80 and 12 into one interchange by realigning 680 past Rodriguez High School."
STA Executive Director Daryl Halls explained that this option provides better alignment with Highway 12 than the first. Also, while both options would have some environmental impact, he said the first option's impact could be slightly greater.
"Both provide traffic relief, and both provide safety improvements," Halls said. Both designs also move the truck scales roughly a half-mile east.
Councilman Steve Wilkins, who represented Vacaville on the STA board Wednesday, said he appreciated that the truck scales would be kept in the same general location.
"That is the one location where you're virtually assured of getting all of the truck traffic that traverses the county," he said.
Board Member Steve Messina of Benicia said, "I think these are good alternatives representing two diverse views on how to go about it."
A draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report is scheduled for completion in summer of 2008, funded with Transportation Congestion Relief Plan money. The project is estimated to cost up to $1.2 billion, and its limits encompass an eight-mile freeway stretch that features nine interchanges.
Now that the board has approved the public release of the alternatives, residents can share their thoughts at an open house set for April.
Jennifer Gentile can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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