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Dreaded bottleneck on I-80 finally gone

By: Kirk Uhler, Placer County Transportation Planning Agency
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Like a voracious monster, the dreaded I-80 bottleneck through Roseville has for years greedily gobbled valuable time, fuel, and peace-of-mind. Daily, hundreds of thousands of motorists have had to endure traffic slowing to the inevitable crawl at the Sacramento-Placer County line. Just ask anybody who travels it. The bottleneck has kept people trapped in their cars, an unwelcome situation that’s kept them from spending quality time at home with family. And it’s meant costly delay in transporting goods along a key freight corridor. Now, thanks to remarkable collaboration among local leaders and local, state, and federal agencies, the monster is dead. After more than a decade of planning, and more than three years of construction, the Interstate 80 Bottleneck Expansion Project is finished. The project, just under six miles in length, will dramatically boost freeway capacity by widening the roadway from six to ten lanes from the county line to just past the State Route 65 connector. That extra space means less time on the brake pedal, and more on the gas pedal. It’s estimated that average daily speeds through the affected area will go up from a dismal 35 miles per hour to a more acceptable 52 miles per hour. And it will save much more than time. Engineers estimate eliminating the bottleneck will save 880,000 gallons of gas a year. At current pump prices, that translates to nearly $3.5 million in savings. And the reduced hydrocarbon emissions translate to the equivalent of taking more than 1,400 cars off the road each year. We at the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency are extremely proud of the regional teamwork and coordination that led to a timely completion of one of the largest projects in our history. Because this was a top priority for our area, we made early decisions to focus our transportation dollars on breaking the bottleneck, instead of other critical projects. Even more importantly, this project represents a remarkable stewardship of taxpayer dollars. By using more competitive bidding procedures and a sharper eye to the bottom line, the Bottleneck Project was completed at a cost of $89 million. Originally, the cost estimate was $210 million. That’s a 58 percent drop, and that’s allowed the money saved to be spent instead on other needed improvements along the I-80 corridor. That includes work on the interchanges at Eureka Road and State Route 65. Coming up with the funding to eliminate this major chokepoint required long range thinking and also a considerable amount of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. Important seed money came from statewide voter approval of Prop 1B in 2006, a $20 billion measure for traffic improvement. Even earlier, former Congressman John Doolittle was instrumental in working with a coalition of advocates to secure tens of millions in a federal transportation bill. That kind of teamwork is testament to what can be done when parochial interests are set aside in favor of developing a big fix that holds relief for an entire region. We applaud elected leaders at all levels who worked toward this goal. Breaking the bottleneck is a big boost for our quality of life and protecting our economy. Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler also serves on the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency.