If you’ve been driving around Jackson, no doubt you’ve seen the electronic billboards on Highways 49 and 88 informing drivers about upcoming construction. You may have even seen surveyors working at the corners of Highway 49 and 88 in Jackson. All this preparatory work has been part of implementing Caltrans’ plans to improve pedestrian walkability and safety in that area. I talked with Warren Alford, the head of the Public and Legislative Affairs department at Caltrans, about this construction and an update about other projects.

Warren Alford CaltransThe curb and ramp project will take place about 0.2 miles mostly to the east and north of the intersection of Highways 49 and 88 in the center of Jackson, which includes the bridge over Jackson Creek on Highway 88. You’ve probably seen the Jackson Civic Center on the northeast corner and Tressler’s on the west side of the intersection, too. Since many people walk around this intersection, Alford said, the goal of the curb and ramp project that starts today is “to make it so people can walk around town more easily.”

The project has three goals:

  • Improve walkability on bridges over Jackson Creek for better sidewalk access.
  • Adding ramps to the new sidewalks.
  • Bring the sidewalks up to ADA compliance.

The first thing you’ll notice during construction, Alford said, is that there will be some temporary road striping added for traffic control during the daytime. By daytime, that means from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., so you will experience delays driving through that intersection.

It Begins

Once the new striping is in place, Caltrans will switch to nighttime work for the actual construction that includes demolition of existing sidewalks. Caltrans defines nighttime work as taking place between 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. If you open your business early or go to work early in the morning, you should be prepared for some delays. And if you walk in that area, you’ll need to make other arrangements.

Caltrans Slow Down electronic signAlford said that even though there will be some lights and noise during construction, Caltrans has long experience in minimizing the impacts from their work on nearby homes, businesses, and traffic. What the crews need from the community is what’s needed with all construction: slower speed and more patience.

“We’ve had a lot of collisions in work zones,” he added. “So, the message of ‘going slow in the cone zone’ and looking out for our workers so they can go home every night helps us a lot.” If the weather cooperates and there are no hiccups, the work should be done in about 90 working days—that is, early summer.

Coming Sooner Than You Think

If you’re into recreating on the Mokelumne River and access the river from Highway 49, you may be interested in attending a virtual workshop about the Mokulemne River Bridge project on Wednesday, February 24 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The Mokelumne River Bridge was built in 1952 and looks it. The concrete guardrails show where they have been hit and repaired over almost 70 years of life. “A significant part of that project is to make it more pedestrian-friendly,” Alford said. “There’s almost no shoulder on the highway, so the new bridge will make it much more friendly to bikes and pedestrians.”

Part of that work is to create a bridge that not just reflects its surroundings. The bridge rails will be upgraded to modern standards, and Caltrans will also add a four-foot-wide bike path shoulder so bicyclists and pedestrians have better access to the river.

Mokulemne River BridgeThe Caltrans District 10 website states that construction is due to begin in December 2022, but Alford says the timeline has been moved up. The project is now scheduled to begin in summer 2022, and if all goes well then Caltrans will finish the project by the end of 2022.

The construction, he added, “will require a lengthy period of one-lane traffic control.” That means you will have one-way, signalized traffic control 24 hours a day because Caltrans crews will work around the clock on the project. During the daytime hours, expect to see flaggers to control traffic as well. Flaggers, Alford said, will be especially needed “when something weird happens, like moving equipment into an area.”

So, that means that in summer and fall 2022, expect to add at least 15 minutes to your commute. When there is more equipment being moved in and out of position, and/or important work like paving is taking place, expect to add even more time. The result of all this work will be a much safer and accessible bridge for the 2023 vacation season.

The virtual workshop is where you can not only get information but also get your questions answered. Project information and other materials should be on the Caltrans District 10 website for review no later than this Wednesday, February 10.

What’s Next?

Alford said that this summer will also see Caltrans crews replacing guardrails at several locations on Highway 88 in the county, so you may encounter lane closures at times to accommodate Caltrans equipment.

Caltrans Road Work Ahead electronic signHe also noted that Pine Grove will see a lot of road improvements that are listed on the Caltrans website, including access construction at Pine Grove Elementary School and upgrades to standard lane and shoulder widths. The county transportation department is taking the lead on that project with Caltrans in a supporting role.

In San Joaquin County, Alford noted that the installation of a roundabout on Highway 88 at Liberty Road is still scheduled to begin this summer. This project will last until summer 2022, so if you take Highway 88 to places like Stockton and Lodi, you’ll soon need to leave earlier than usual.

At some point, Caltrans will add more cameras on Highway 88 to help you know about current conditions. In the meantime, Alford said, you can visit the QuickMap website or download the QuickMap app on your iPhone or Android smartphone. The app integrates with Waze and uses real-time traffic data to get up-to-date information. “It’s the best way to get up-to-date traffic information and where construction is happening,” he added.

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