Way2Tahoe column: Construction season underway in Tahoe (opinion)
Editor’s Note: The Way2Tahoe column, previously known as the “Tahoe Roads” column, is a monthly feature providing updates on Caltrans projects and other road-related news.
As winter slowly melts away, Caltrans has started work reconstructing the Echo Summit sidehill viaduct on U.S. 50. This edition of Way2Tahoe will explain what motorists can expect during this construction season as well as tips for drivers to experience safe commutes throughout the project.
Rebuilding the U.S. 50 Echo Summit sidehill viaduct
The Echo Summit sidehill viaduct construction project on U.S. 50 has begun for the 2019 construction season. Caltrans and its contractor are busy at work replacing the structure, which was originally built in 1939, to bring it up to current safety standards.
Eighty years of weather impacts and vehicle usage have created severe deck cracking on the viaduct, extensive rust in the reinforcing steel as well as cracked concrete from water damage.
Caltrans and Q&D Construction will remove and replace the bridge with a team of licensed civil engineers overseeing the project to ensure that Caltrans’ standards are met. Phase one of the project is currently underway and calls for setting up the work area. New supports will be constructed as well as a platform on the side of the mountain, so work can be done underneath the bridge without impacting traffic.
The initial work to set up the platform on the side of the mountain started May 1 and is estimated to take six weeks to complete.
There will be periods of one-way traffic control during the beginning phase of the roadwork as crews prepare the work site and to allow construction vehicles and equipment to enter and exit the project area.
When driving through construction zones, motorists should slow down, watch for workers on foot and remember to never allow themselves to be distracted while driving.
Phase two of the reconstruction plan is scheduled for spring 2020, once the snow has melted and crews can get back to work. During phase two, U.S. 50 will be closed for up to 14 days.
The official state detour when U.S. 50 is closed:
From Sacramento, take California Route 16 east to California Route 49 south, to California Route 88 east, to California Route 89 north, back to U.S. 50 in Meyers, or continue on U.S. 50 east to Placerville and then follow the previously outlined route heading south on California Route 49.
Motorists also can take this scenic route during this construction season to avoid the one-way traffic control delays.
Local residents and businesses will be allowed to use Johnson Pass Road during the full closure next spring with a pass issued by Caltrans.
More information on passes will be provided as closure dates are solidified.
On the bright side of road closures, the detour route goes through California’s Historic Gold Country and makes for a beautiful drive past panoramic vineyards, rugged river canyons, gold mines, museums and flower farms.
Once the Echo Summit sidehill viaduct is replaced, motorists can expect a smoother surface and wider bridge section of U.S. 50 for better visibility and improved safety. To learn more about this roadwork, visit http://www.way2tahoe.com.
Visitors to South Lake Tahoe and Stateline should keep in mind that they’ll be traveling through three Caltrans projects this season.
In addition to the Echo Summit Viaduct Replacement Project, crews are constructing a three-legged roundabout in Meyers at the U.S. 50 and California Route 89 intersection.
Caltrans also is in the third year of the U.S. 50 water-quality and roadway improvement project in South Lake Tahoe from the “Y” intersection at California Route 89 to the Trout Creek Bridge. For more information about these projects happening around the lake, visit http://www.tahoeroads.com.
Drivers should be courteous to other drivers and workers that may be on the road and allow for additional travel time to reach their destinations. Caltrans appreciates motorists’ patience during construction delays.
Steve Nelson is public information officer for Caltrans District 3, which includes the Lake Tahoe Basin.