Yolo County began offering added service on Yolobus today as part of an effort to ease congestion during this summer’s intermittent Interstate 5 closures for Caltrans repairs.
Yolobus has added four express buses to route 43 from the Memorial Union to downtown Sacramento for the duration of the project, expected to last until July 15. They have also added buses to routes between Woodland and Sacramento, stopping at Sacramento International Airport.
County officials are encouraging riders to catch earlier buses than usual because they are expecting delays anywhere from five minutes to an hour.
The Yolo County Transportation District, tasked with organizing the county’s travel alternatives, purchased 7,200 Amtrak tickets for rides between Davis and Sacramento during weekday peak hours. It is selling the tickets at a discounted rate of $2 per ticket. They can be purchased in sheets of 10 for $20 at the Farmers Market or at the train station.
“I need to stress that these are for everyone except existing train riders,” said Terry Bassett, executive director of YCTD. “We’re trying to add new riders, not subsidize existing train riders.”
YCTD has been planning these temporary changes since Caltrans announced the dates of the long anticipated project last fall. The repairs are taking place on I-5 between the Capitol City Freeway/U.S. Highway 50 interchange to Richards Boulevard in Sacramento. Caltrans’ plan was originally to do the needed repairs more gradually by closing one lane at time but decided to go with an unprecedented compact schedule that alternates between closing all northbound lanes and all southbound lanes on a weekly basis.
“The idea was it would take only 42 days instead of five to six months,” Bassett said. “A lot of pain over a shorter period of time.”
Northbound I-5 traffic will be diverted through West Sacramento to Interstate 80 during the northbound closures taking place May 30 through June 8, and then again from June 27 through July 2. Southbound traffic will be redirected along the same route during closures from June 14 through June 22 and again July 9 through July 14. Trucks are required to take a longer detour along Highway 113 to I-80 to allow space for more passenger cars on the other route, according to the project’s website.
“We’re expecting a huge impact on traffic flow,” Bassett said. “Whether it’s a northbound or southbound shutdown, it’s going to impact all directions because people are going to be diverted all over the place.”
The repairs are being conducted on a section of I-5 built in 1968 referred to as the “boat section” because it is below water level and had to be drained during its original construction. Without pumps, the area would flood during rainstorms.
“In 40 years, we’ve only had one failure when there was unprecedented rainfall,” said Rochelle Jenkins, Caltrans spokesperson. “But over the years, silt has undermined the system so the time has come to tear the roadway up. Water is a roadway’s worst enemy, and right now water is seeping through.”
The $27 million project will replace the drainage system and repave the road as well as update the pump monitoring system.
Caltrans is urging commuters to carpool, telecommute, rideshare, avoid commuting during peak hours and to even take their summer vacations during the construction.
“The project will displace the 190,000 cars per day that use the boat section,” Jenkins said. “People who don’t commute on I-5 and think they won’t be affected actually will be. Those cars have to go somewhere else.”
Caltrans agreed to give Yolo County $118,000 to cover overtime pay for employees and added services. The county initially requested $245,000 but was denied. If the expenses should exceed the allotted $118,000, Caltrans has agreed to renegotiate the grant.
“It’s going to be a very interesting test because nobody – not even Caltrans – knows how people are going to modify their travel patterns,” Bassett said.
More information, daily updates and live traffic cameras can be accessed at fixi5.com.
ALYSOUN BONDE can be reached at email@example.com.