Long road ahead for I-80 work | SierraSun.com

Long road ahead for I-80 work

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunThe bridge on Interstate 80 over the Boreal/Castle Peak exit is being replaced this summer.

Massive semi-trucks, droves of chain-clad tires and the extremes of Sierra weather have all taken their toll on Interstate 80.

Since the road over the Summit was completed in time for the 1960 Winter Olympic Games little has changed ” accept for how deeply the ruts have been worn into the pavement.

But now Caltrans has set to work on the nearly 50-year-old interstate, with plans for new bridges, new drainage, and most importantly for the many motorists who traverse the pass every day ” new pavement.

“What’s going on on Interstate 80 is pretty phenomenal, it’s been a long time coming,” said Mike Bartlett, project manager for Caltrans.

And the effort isn’t just isolated to the Sierra Nevada, said Shelly Chernicki, spokeswoman for Caltrans.

“We’ve got projects on 80 from San Francisco to the state line, you’re going to see major changes over the next few years,” Chernicki said.

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In the Sierra, Caltrans is targeting nine stretches of road that will begin construction between now and 2010, she said.

Motorists are already feeling the affects of one of those projects on Donner Summit, where westbound cars are being rerouted to eastbound lanes.

Traffic is being rerouted there to allow crews to demolish the westbound bridge and replace it, Chernicki said. Once that’s done, the traffic will be switched, and the same process will begin on the eastbound bridge.

“Motorists aren’t going to have shoulders through that less than three-mile detour, and their will be concrete barriers to segregate traffic,” Chernicki said.

Ending in 2009, the bridge replacements, along with new pavement from Soda Springs to just above Donner Lake Interchange, will cost $71 million, Chernicki said.

That work is being paid for by California Proposition 1B funding, Bartlett said.

Then, starting in May and stretching down from the Donner Lake Interchange to the Donner Pass Road overcrossing, Caltrans will be repaving the interstate and adding a westbound truck climbing lane, Chernicki said.

The lane addition will be finished in 2012, costing $78 million, and the new pavement for that stretch in both directions will end in 2010, costing $71 million, according to Caltrans.

To the east, the Truckee River Canyon project will also replace pavement from Floriston to the Nevada state line, starting in 2008 and finishing by 2012, Bartlett said.

Gray Portland Concrete will be used for all of the high-elevation projects from the summit to the state line, he said, which is more durable in mountain conditions.

“The stretch from Boca to Floriston is really nice; we want the whole corridor to be like that,” Bartlett said.