Though the wet months usually mean construction season is over, some work will continue on the East Sonora Bypass this winter.
Caltrans officials said the major blasting and other dirt work is expected to wrap up this week for the season. But crews will still be on site to continue bridge construction and to carry out other work and maintenance, weather permitting.
"They are still anticipating finishing on the scheduled date," said Caltrans spokeswoman Angela DaPrato, adding completion is expected in summer 2014.
According to Caltrans, blasting is scheduled from 3:30 to 5 p.m. today, with drivers likely to see 15-minute delays when driving along Highway 108 from Hess Avenue near Cavalieri Road to Standard Road near Via Este Road.
DaPrato said the blasting is likely the last of the major road construction work until the spring. Weather delayed that work by a few weeks.
"We're just trying to push along the project," she said.
Crews will continue some hauling, maintenance and stormwater installation on the main road project. But on clear, dry days, construction work will continue on the bridge that crosses the current stretch of Highway 108 between Sonora and Soulsbyville.
"We want to take advantage of those clear days where we can get work done," DaPrato said.
According to state traffic data, an average of 22,300 vehicles pass along Highway 108 on the existing bypass every day. During peak summer months, that average goes up to about 24,600.
The stretch passing through East Sonora is the heaviest travelled section of Highway 108 outside of the busiest part in Modesto, according to state traffic statistics from 2011.
When it's complete, as much as 6,500 cubic yards of concrete will be used for two miles of highway, 1,049 feet of bridges and 2,500 feet of frontage road at Gold Queen and Argyle roads. Between 40 and 50 Caltrans employees and contract workers will work at different times. The $53 million project was contracted early this year to Teichert/MCM Construction.
The project will include two elevated stretches, rising 100 to 110 feet above Mono Way and Peaceful Oak and 50 to 60 feet above Peaceful Oak.
This phase, when complete, will be a two-lane highway which will run from Peaceful Oak to Via Este Road. It will also include a partial interchange at Peaceful Oak, a grade separation at Mono Way and a frontage road.
Once all three phases are completed, the entire bypass is expected to run from Sanguinetti Road in Sonora to the four-lane stretch at Twain Harte Drive.
The state announced in 2006 that Phase 2 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 after the second phase.
No funding source or timeline has been identified so far for the project's third phase.