The second phase of the East Sonora Bypass will open to motorists Friday, bringing with it some changes for the stretch of Highway 108 that is being replaced.
Highway 108 from Peaceful Oak Road to Via Este will become Mono Way, dramatically reducing traffic along that stretch of road and putting it into the hands of Tuolumne County to maintain.
“It’s going to be relinquished back to the county,” said Darin Grossi, executive director of the Tuolumne County Transportation Council.
Highway 108 is owned and maintained by Caltrans, which will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday.
This second bypass phase includes a partial interchange at Peaceful Oak, a grade separation at Mono Way and a frontage road. The bypass extension will have two elevated stretches — bridges rising 100 to 110 feet above Mono Way and 50 to 60 feet above Peaceful Oak.
Grossi said there are plans to improve the old stretch of highway.
The Tuolumne County Transportation Council, which is a joint agency between the county and city of Sonora, will provide $1.86 million for future improvements to what will be the newest portion on Mono Way.
Some of those will likely include upgraded intersections, as well as new shoulders and bike paths, he said.
Once the through traffic is routed to the bypass, the number of cars along the road will decrease significantly. Grossi said that, according to county traffic models, today’s typical count of about 18,000 cars a day will drop to somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000.
That could be a mixed blessing for businesses, like Longeway Auto Body, which will be bypassed. Owner Jesse Longeway said on Wednesday that he is in a “wait and see situation” to find out whether the change will affect his bottom line.
On one hand, Longeway said there could be an impact on drive-up customers, or future customers who know about the business from driving past the location. On the other hand, he said he is looking forward to a safer thoroughfare with the reduced traffic volume.
“Most of my customer base is from word of mouth,” he said. “They know how to find me. … My one hope is I could put some signage up and you’ll be able to see it from the overpass.”
Down the street at Allcove Kitchen and Baths, owner Matt de la Mott said it’s “hard to say” what kind of an impact the bypass will have. While there are some customers who see his business as they drive past to go up the hill, the manufacturing business should be able to figure out how to deal with any issues, he said.
“It should not affect us,” he said.
The project was contracted last year to Teichert/MCM Construction. It is the second of three phases that transportation officials say will eventually make up a highway running from Sanguinetti Road in Sonora to the four-lane stretch at Soulsbyville. The state announced in 2006 that Phase II was fully funded and set for construction to run from 2010 through 2012.
However, state funding issues stalled the project before officials were able to find available funds from multiple sources.
Money was secured through the Proposition 1B-created Corridor Mobility Improvement Account and a 2006 voter-approved transportation bond measure. But not before a few cutbacks led to a redesign, with the updated plan excluding two entrance and exit ramps. State and local planners have said they will try to find funding to add those ramps when it is available.
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