SR76 widening and interchange, Pala Creek Bridge, I-5 rehab among 2013 Caltrans projects

What Caltrans District 11 describes as major construction projects in San Diego County during 2013 will include the widening of State Route 76 between South Mission Road and Interstate 15, the intersection work at Highway 76 and I-15, the replacement of Pala Creek Bridge on Highway 76, and pavement rehabilitation on Interstate 5 between the Aliso Creek rest area and the Orange County line.

Caltrans District 11 director Laurie Berman noted the upcoming Caltrans work and other activities during the agency’s annual media day Feb. 28.

“Providing motorists with information and keeping highway workers safe as they maintain 1,100 lane miles of highways is an everyday challenge,” Berman said.

The lane mile figure is the total number of miles for the Interstate and state highways in each direction in District 11, which covers San Diego and Imperial Counties, and does not account for multiple lanes in both directions. District 11 has four Interstate freeways and 20 state route freeways or highways.

“During the past few years the San Diego region has benefited from the completion of a number of major transportation improvement projects,” Berman said. “There is more to come in 2013.”

The 23 major projects, including 14 new construction projects as well as nine which are under way, have a combined cost of approximately $690 million including $100 million for the Highway 76 widening, $48 million for the I-5 pavement rehabilitation, $25 million for the SR-76/I-15 interchange, and $3.3 million for the Pala Creek Bridge replacement.

“We continue to work with our regional transportation partners to address the most congested corridors and to deliver a transportation system that is reliable and that offers choices,” Berman said. “Most freeway projects today are more than widening the roadway. Many projects include transit opportunities such as bus rapid transit stations and improvements such as express lanes for carpools and vanpools as well as environmental and community enhancements.”

Caltrans’ tasks include worker safety, and earlier in February, a worker safety pilot project commenced to construct bridge approach slabs at 56 sites throughout the county. Those locations will include portable motorist warning signs, a buffer lane between workers and traffic, and lower speed limits throughout the construction zone along with California Highway Patrol enforcement. During the first week of the pilot project the CHP issued 59 speeding tickets and arrested three motorists for driving under the influence on I-5 just north of Oceanside. “It’s an important step,” Berman said.

Caltrans’ recent environmental initiatives included the development of specifications for hot-mix asphalt for highways using rubber recycled tires at approximately a dozen locations in San Diego and Imperial Counties. In addition to reducing the number of discarded tires in landfills, the rubberized asphalt provides a smoother ride for motorists. Rubberized pavement has also proven to be more durable than normal asphalt concrete and also decreases noise by four to six decibels. The state’s goal calls for about a third of all hot-mix asphalt paving jobs to include rubberized asphalt; District 11 has already exceeded that goal for fiscal year 2012-13.

The change from traditional light bulbs to light-emitting diodes along Caltrans highways also has more than environmental benefits. Conversion to LEDs on highway message signs reduces the average monthly energy bill from $232 to $48, and the longer lifespan of the fixtures reduces maintenance costs.

District 11 is also participating in an electric vehicle charging station demonstration project; two medium-speed chargers and one fast charger will be installed at the Del Lago Transit Center park and ride just west of Interstate 15. The Del Lago Transit Center improvements are among the 23 major projects, and the expansion to eight bus bays will allow for the possibility of a North County Transit District route along Interstate 15 between Escondido and Fallbrook as well as for non-stop routes between Escondido and San Diego.

“A lot of what we do is providing safe and reliable choices for motorists,” Berman said.

Caltrans maintenance tasks include daily maintenance of pavement, culverts, drains, signs, signals, guardrails, lighting, landscape, and irrigation. Maintenance crews also remove snow, sand, and debris from roadways when needed. “We do routine maintenance on all of our pavement,” Berman said.

The I-5 pavement rehabilitation is a step beyond routine maintenance which often involves a thin slurry coat to seal the road and protect the subgrade. The degradation of the outside lane will require a replacement of the entire pavement panels. A similar $14.5 million pavement rehabilitation project will put a new top layer on State Route 94 between Jamacha Road in Rancho San Diego and Community Building Road in Dulzura. Caltrans chief deputy director Cory Binns expects the design phase for the Highway 94 project to be complete in late spring and the I-5 design phase to be complete during summer. The Highway 94 rehabilitation will likely begin in late summer and has a winter 2014 completion estimate. The I-5 rehabilitation is expected to begin in December 2013 or January 2014 and has a fall 2015 estimated completion date.

Construction on the SR-76/I-15 interchange began in October. The modification of the ramps and widening of the bridge between Interstate 15 and Old Highway 395 is expected to be complete this summer. “The interchange project is going to be wrapping up summer of this year,” said Allan Kosup, the Caltrans corridor director for State Route 76 and Interstate 5.

The widening of State Route 76 between Melrose Drive in Oceanside and South Mission Road from two lanes to four was completed last fall although some non-operational work remains. The Environmental Impact Report for the widening between South Mission Road and I-15 was certified in 2012, and Kosup estimates that the design phase is 90 percent complete.

The right-of-way acquisition phase must also be completed before construction can begin on the eastern Highway 76 widening project. “We’re currently making offers,” Kosup said.

Kosup expects that Caltrans will begin the construction contract bid process this fall. The widening is expected to be complete in winter 2015.

The bridge over Pala Creek will still allow for one lane of travel in each direction but will replace a decades-old bridge and will meet current standards. “It’s a safety project,” Berman said.

Work on the new bridge began in 2011. The new bridge has wider shoulder lane areas than its predecessor; those wider shoulders helped maintain traffic flow during construction. The bridge will be a single-span bridge with no piles or columns in Pala Creek; the old bridge has piles which extend into the waterway. The Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program provided approximately 88 percent of the bridge replacement’s cost. Completion is expected by fall 2013.

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