Caltrans rolling out $36 million in I-80 overcrossing upgrades

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Caltrans is moving forward with plans to provide more room to move under nine overcrossings above Interstate 80 in Placer County.

The $36 million project is poised to start in May, with work taking place over two years between Brace Road in Loomis and the Magra overcrossing, east of Colfax.

As well as increasing the vertical clearance under the overcrossings by a foot, work will include replacing bridge rails, performing a seismic safety upgrade, improving pedestrian crossings to Americans With Disabilities Act specifications and upgrading guardrails.

Because of the lower overcrossings, vehicles with permits but taller trailers or high loads now make a 300-mile detour off I-80. Today’s clearance standards call allow for truck heights of up to 16 feet 6 inches. The eight overcrossings, which were built during the late 1950s and early 1960s during initial construction of Interstate 80, are 15 feet 6 inches.

Caltrans spokeswoman Rochelle Jenkins said Monday that Caltrans should be awarding a contract by the end of January on a project estimated to cost $36 million. The work is to start in May on the Magra overcrossing, and the rest of the scheduling will be worked out with the contractor, she said.

Seven of the nine overcrossings (Brace Road, Horseshoe Bar Road, King Road, Penryn Road, Gilardi Road, Newcastle Road and the Newcastle Union Pacific overpass) are between Loomis and Penryn. The ninth overcrossing is at Weimar Cross Road, just west of Colfax.

 Horseshoe Bar Road and Newcastle Road are two of the busiest crossroads to be worked on. Caltrans is taking different approaches to the two.

On the Horseshoe Bar overcrossings, ramps will remain open but the actual route along the overcrossing above Interstate 80 will not be, Jenkins said. The contract calls for the work to last no more than 30 days but there is an incentive clause in the contract to complete it more quickly, she said.

“We’d like it to be 17 days,” Jenkins said.

Caltrans will pay for a portable building on King Road in Loomis to provide fire department coverage of the area on the other side of the freeway that would be blocked, she said.

The two overcrossings at Newcastle will have the roadway lowered beneath them, she said. During the work on improvements, traffic lanes will be reduced on the freeway.

Overcrossings passing through Auburn are already at required minimum vertical clearances, Jenkins said.

The Caltrans contractor will also be digging down at the Weimar Cross Road overcrossing, she said.

“When we’re digging down we won’t touch the structure so the overcrossing can stay open,” Jenkins said.