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Placer eyes stimulus funds for Roseville bottleneck

By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County transportation officials are trying to find a way to make Joe Barilari’s life a little easier a little sooner. Barilari, a trucker from Los Angeles, passed through the Roseville bottleneck along Interstate 80 earlier this week driving a trailer of gas over the Donner Summit. For Barilari, the bottleneck means a series of merging lanes and slowdowns. “Any time you reduce the lanes and cause congestion, you’ll have trouble,” Barilari said. Confronting funding challenges that could delay the final stage of Roseville I-80 congestion relief improvements, the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency is turning to state legislators to help unplug the infamous Roseville Interstate 80 bottleneck. To do that, they’re seeking more from a new source of money – federal economic recovery funds. The transportation authority was anticipating a higher percentage of federal recovery funding to flow its way for the final stage of the $124 million public works project through the city. But the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency Board found out last week that jurisdictions eligible for road funding within Placer County would receive a 30 percent share while the state would pick up 70 percent. Caltrans and regional officials are now working with state legislators to push through emergency legislation that would provide more funding from the state’s portion to local projects like the Roseville bottleneck. Celia McAdam, Transportation Planning Agency general manager, said the legislation would have to pass quickly because funding for projects needs to be in place and construction contracts need to be awarded by the end of April. “If it doesn’t happen fast, it’s not going to happen,” McAdam said. “We could tie this up in no time at all if get the approvals.” The bottleneck was created in late 2003 after completion of a Sacramento County project that added a total of nine miles of new carpool lanes in both directions between Longview Drive and the Placer-Sacramento county line. The result was a bottleneck at Roseville’s Riverside Avenue exit as 10 lanes slimmed to six lanes. On the eastern side of the bottleneck, Highway 65 terminates at I-80, adding two lanes of traffic in each direction. The first stage of the project to break the bottleneck added an auxiliary eastbound lane from Riverside Avenue to Douglas Boulevard. The work was completed in 2007 at a cost of $9.5 million. The second stage of work is now taking place and will cost $48 million. It will add 2.9 miles of auxiliary and carpool lanes in both directions from Riverside Avenue to Eureka Road. “It’s already under construction and the funding is safe,” McAdam said. “It’s ahead of schedule and will be completed in 2010.” The third and final stage of work would cost about $49 million and is to be paid for with state bond funding and federal funds. With the state not in a position to issue bonds on projects, county officials are attempting to find another solution to start construction. McAdam said that the proposed state legislation would allow Caltrans to use part of the federal funding to backfill projects that are due to receive money for bond issues. That will take some convincing, with competition from other road and bridge projects from around the state. McAdam said that the county project has an advantage because it is considered a rural project, when there aren’t many rural projects to choose from. “There’s pressure to spread the money around,” McAdam said. “I think we really have a good story to present but it’s going to be competitive.” Barilari said he’s used to the dangers of changes in lane numbers and congestion. “We have our share in L.A.,” he said. As for the Placer County effort to add a degree of safety to the bottleneck? “There’s never enough lanes,” Barilari said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com. Fast Facts: How to unclog a bottleneck 1. Smooth the merge. The bottleneck project has already completed a $9.5 million effort to eliminate one of the two merges on eastbound Interstate 80 at the Placer-Sacramento county line. 2. Boost lanes. A $48 million project currently taking place adds auxiliary lanes and carpool lanes on both eastbound and westbound I-80 from Auburn Boulevard to Miners Ravine. 3. Head east. Transportation officials need to find funding to complete the project by adding auxiliary and carpool lanes to just east of Highway 65. Total cost is an estimated $66 million.