PUBLIC MEETING: Wagon Trail Realignment Project Open House, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, Bret Harte High School, 323 S. Main St., Angels Camp.

Work is progressing on a project that aims to realign a 6.5-mile stretch of Highway 4 between Copperopolis and Angels Camp.

Known as the Wagon Trail Realignment Project, the highway is expected to be realigned from near Bonanza Mine Way to about two miles west of the intersection of highways 4 and 49 in Angels Camp.

A public meeting in two weeks - to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at Bret Harte High School in Angels Camp - will show more-detailed maps of two proposed alignment alternatives, said project manager Matt Satow.

"It's called the Wagon Trail for a reason - it follows along the original path of a wagon trail," he said. "The tight curves may have been fine for wagons, but not for vehicles."

Caltrans initially identified the project several years ago based on the higher-than-average accident rate along that section of Highway 4.

"This project really is about improving sight-distance and safety through this section of the highway," Satow said.

Environmental studies are now in process. Potential animal habitats have been identified, and biologists are now verifying if species, such as the California tiger salamander, actually live in the area, Satow said.

"None of the studies are ready yet to submit to Caltrans for review," he said. "Some studies require two seasons."

Satow, a consultant based in Rancho Cordova, expects the draft environmental documentation to be released in early 2015 and the environmental process to be completed by the end of that year.

Right-of-way acquisition would then begin in 2016, and wrap-up - along with the design - by the end of 2017. Construction on a segment of the project is expected to begin in 2018.

The entire project is estimated to cost about $50 million.

The upcoming meeting aims to provide an update on the project, get public feedback and answer questions regarding the environmental review process.

Staff from Calaveras County Public Works, the City of Angels Camp and Caltrans will be at the "open house format" meeting to answer questions and discuss issues related to the project.

Public comment cards will be available at the meeting. Written comments, which must be postmarked within 10 days of the meeting, can also be mailed to: Calaveras County Public Works Department, 891 Mountain Ranch Road, San Andreas, CA 95249.