Caltrans seeks to delay part of bypass

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By JOSHUA WOLFSON

Caltrans officials want to push back the schedule for the second phase of the East Sonora Bypass project by a year.

The project was to go out to bid in February 2006. However, because the number of private parcels Caltrans needs to acquire for the project has increased, Caltrans wants to list the project in February 2007, said Iorzua Akuva, a Caltrans project manager.

The added land is needed because of Caltrans' plans to do a shoulder-widening project on Highway 108 between Draper Mine Road and Via Este at the same time as the bypass project, said Caltrans spokeswoman Tina Walker.

Under the revised schedule, construction would begin during the summer of 2007 and be completed two years later.

Phase two of the project will extend the bypass from Standard Road to Via Este in order to relieve congestion on Highway 108. It includes creating a new portion of the highway and an interchange at Standard Road at a cost of $45 million, according to Caltrans.

Before the date can be moved, Caltrans' partner in the project, the Tuolumne County and Cities Area Planning Council, must OK the change, said Peter Rei, the council executive secretary and Tuolumne County's director of public works.

When advised of Caltrans' proposed schedule change earlier this month, Rei suggested an official from Caltrans attend a council meeting to explain reasons for the scheduling change.

However, Caltrans officials have not yet informed the county when they will appear before the council, Rei said.

"We have been trying to get them to do that," Rei said. He added that, until the council votes on the change, as far as he is concerned, the date for putting the project out to bid will remain February 2006.

At recent council meetings, some members and staff have expressed frustration with Caltrans over what they say is a lack of updated information on the project's cost and scheduling.

The two sides have discussed ways to improve communication, Rei said.

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The Union Democrat
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