By JASON ECK
With the return of sunny weather, the massive East Sonora Bypass project is again under way for the season.
Work on the 2.5-mile, $70 million first stage is about half complete. About $40 million is being spent on construction. The first phase is on schedule and on budget, Pam Marquez, a Caltrans engineer who is overseeing the project, told Tuolumne County supervisors yesterday.
Marquez and Iorzua Akuva, project manager, visited the county board to provide an update on the project.
Caltrans will hold a meeting for the general public April 23 in downtown Sonora.
The two-lane highway is the first stage of a three-part project that eventually will connect with Highway 108 just west of Soulsbyville Road. Caltrans has money for design work for the second stage, which will run from Standard Road to Via Este. Caltrans has begun acquiring land for the second phase, but has yet to receive funding for construction, which is scheduled for May 2007. Akuva said he is hopeful the money will be available. A third phase is yet unfunded.
The first stage is scheduled to open next spring but that depends on the weather, Marquez said.
Sonora-area drivers will encounter some significant changes in traffic patterns in coming months.
Signals at the intersection of Highway 108 and Standard and Peaceful Oak roads were activated in late December, and the next big change will come within a month when Caltrans activates signals and opens traffic at the new Highway 108-Hess Avenue interchange. The intersection will serve as the main route for residents of the heavily traveled Phoenix Lake Road. North Hess Avenue no longer exists.
Once Hess Avenue opens, traffic on Phoenix Lake and Peaceful Valley roads will change. Phoenix Lake Road drivers will no longer access existing Highway 108 near Burger King; instead they will use Hess Avenue. The west end of Peaceful Valley Road will be filled with dirt to make way for the bypass, and Peaceful Valley Road will no longer go through to Phoenix Lake Road. Phoenix Lake Road, where it intersects with Highway 108, will become a cul-de-sac.