By JASON ECK
Work on the East Sonora Bypass is winding down for the winter as crews continue repairing damage caused by last month's monster rain storm.
The Nov. 8 flash flood that hit western Tuolumne County washed away much of the grass-seed spray Caltrans uses to stabilize soil through the rainy season. Officials expected the seed to germinate with the help of the first rains of the season. But last month's downpour was simply too much, said Pam Marquez, a Caltrans engineer who is overseeing the $70 million project.
"We're doing a lot of repair work," Marquez said. "Four inches of rain didn't do (the project) so well."
When completed in spring 2004, the East Sonora Bypass will have taken nearly three years and extend from Sanguinetti Road to Standard Road, roughly paralleling the existing Highway 108.
The 3-mile-long, two-lane highway is the first of a three-part project that eventually will connect with Highway 108 at Soulsbyville Road.
Caltrans is now using a heavier seed mix that was still being sprayed on slopes last week for its hydroseeding.
"It's able to withstand a heavier, pelting rain," Marquez said.
"It is a cost setback both on the contractor's side and our side," Marquez said. She declined to say how much the extra work has cost.
Drivers will notice a significant change by Christmas, when a signal light is installed at the intersection of Highway 108 with Standard and Peaceful Oak roads. Workers completed widening that intersection this summer. A small stretch of Peaceful Oak Road will lead eastbound drivers from the new stretch of bypass to the existing Highway 108 and westbound drivers will use the road to get onto the new expressway.
Another major traffic change won't come until springtime when Hess Avenue will open to traffic. The bypass will cross Hess Avenue where an undercrossing is under construction. North Hess Avenue no longer exists.