FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 30, 2014 –
By Steve Marschke
West Sacramento officials have relaxed a bit since last week, when the beginning of the “Fix 50” freeway project threatened to jam up local streets.
“The traffic is running smoothly and its going great,” reported Lieutenant Tod Sockman of the West Sacramento Police Department. He credited motorists for “varying their routes and changing their commute times,” and asked them to “continue doing what you’re doing.”
When CalTrans launched the project – initially closing all but one lane of eastbound U.S. 50 near downtown Sacramento – the city was ready for manual control of backed-up local intersections.
“We had 12 traffic people assigned to key locations where we thought it might back up,” said Sockman. “When it got to the point where traffic would back up, we put flashing red lights at the intersection and took over manual control.”
That happened, for example, at a congested Park Boulevard/Jefferson Boulevard intersection, where much of West Sacramento gets on the freeway to go to work in the morning.
The first day saw five intersections under traffic control during morning hours, when motorists tend to head east into Sacramento to their jobs. CalTrans quickly reopened one more lane on 50. On the second day, only three local intersections were being directed by hand, and on the third day, none.
The city also brought in a “command post” – a mobile operations center still parked next to city hall.
“It’s got computers, monitors and a radio for dispatch,” said Sockman. “We have a representative from police, fire, public works and AMR (the local ambulance company). We also have a direct line to Sacramento dispatch.”
The command post could watch traffic on city streets and help direct emergency vehicles to the best paths through them.
“For example, on the first day, there was a guy who needed to get the hospital from near West Capitol Avenue and Harbor Boulevard,” said Sockman. “The cameras were able to help get (the ambulance) the best route.”
Motorists still need to think twice about going eastbound on 50 from Sacramento. It’s still a problem, especially during the commute hours. But worries that West Sac streets would be deluged with motorists on freeway detours have not fully been born out.
The command post is now idle, pending any new traffic emergencies.
Starting May 27, CalTrans is scheduled to switch its roadwork to the westbound side of U.S. 50, and that’s expected to have less effect on West Sacramento, since this city will be on the “outfeed” side of any bottleneck. But Sockman said the command post will be re-staffed and ready for action again, just in case.
CalTrans has agreed to reimburse the city up to $750,000 for extra staffing and other impacts of the project.
The entire freeway project is scheduled to finish on June 25. For more information on the highway repair project, visit www.fix50.com. The City has traffic cameras on its website, www.cityofwestsacramento.org.
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