The multi-million dollar East Sonora Bypass project is moving along, and the second of three phases is expected to wrap up at the end of the year, according to Caltrans.
Drivers on the East Sonora Bypass on Monday travel past construction work on Phase 2 of the East Sonora Bypass. Amy Alonzo Rozak/Union Democrat, copyright 2012
Workers will continue drilling and blasting through the end of October to install an underground water drainage system and remove old roads, said Caltrans spokesman Ken Paglia.
Bridge crews will be in full force this winter to construct a two-lane highway from Peaceful Oak Road to Via Este. The highway is a continuation of the first stage of the bypass, which was completed in 2002 and runs from Sanguinetti Road to Peaceful Oak Road.
Paglia said the recent heat wave has not stalled construction of the $53 million phase, which is a joint effort between the state and Tuolumne County Transportation Council. It was contracted earlier this year to Teichert/MCM Construction.
The project aims to ease road congestion, decrease travel times for motorists, address operational problems on the current highway alignment and enhance safety for drivers by providing a route with fewer curves, according to Caltrans.
It has been 25 years since the original Highway 108 bypass was built as a two-lane highway between Mono Way and Highway 49 to route motorists away from downtown.
According to state traffic data, an average of 22,300 vehicles drive along the Highway 108 bypass every day, and the average increases to 24,600 during peak summer months.
The stretch passing through East Sonora is the most heavily traveled section of Highway 108 outside the busiest part in Modesto, according to state traffic statistics from 2011.
The project will “enhance this vital artery that is critical to interregional commuters within the surrounding Sierra and Mother Lode communities,” said Caltrans spokeswoman Angela DaPrato.
The state announced in 2006 that workers would break ground on the second phase in 2010 and reach completion in 2012, but the project was stalled due to state funding issues.
State and local planners were able to secure $14.5 million from Proposition 1B, a 2006 voter-approved transportation bond, adding to funds from the Transportation Improvement Program — the state’s main road funding mechanism.
Planners redesigned the second phase to reduce costs, eliminating two entrance and exit ramps at Peaceful Oak Road. They said earlier this summer that they would pursue funding to add the ramps after the second phase is complete.
The third and final phase of the bypass will include the construction of a two-lane highway connecting Via Este with Sunshine Road, where the bypass is expected to end.