FAIRFIELD — Highway 12 through Jameson Canyon has two different looks as the state continues its drive to turn a two-lane, narrow road into a four-lane, modern highway.
The 3-mile Solano County portion from Interstate 80 to the Solano/Napa border remains a two-lane construction zone. Crews are still working on a retaining wall on the lower part of a hill that they’ve carved out to make room for a wider roadway.
But the 3-mile Napa County portion from the Solano/Napa border to Highway 29 is a different story. It has been transformed into a four-lane road, with two lanes going each direction and a concrete median barrier in the center. Shoulders include bike lanes.
This is the look of the future Highway 12.
“The Napa side looks like it’s done, but it’s almost done, it’s not completely done,” state Department of Transportation spokesman Vince Jacala said.
For example, Caltrans still has a list of things to go over with the contractor, he said.
That point got proven Monday and Tuesday, when orange cones blocked off sections of an eastbound lane and a westbound lane.
Drivers for the previous two weeks experienced a road that has four lanes and all of the striping in place. Two years of work that have sometimes left traffic at a crawl at least has the appearance of being finished along the Napa County portion.
This milestone on the Highway 12 project happened without fanfare. One day in late March, drivers were restricted to two lanes in Napa County. Then the orange traffic cones were removed and all four lanes were open.
Geoffrey Wilcox commutes on Highway 12 from Green Valley to Napa’s airport area. He sees a difference in traffic flow on the four-lane Napa County portion.
“It really does in the morning open up,” Wilcox said. “The only problem is we’ve had three or four years of pent-up frustration and some of those drivers are really driving that thing fast.”
He goes in the slow lane at the posted speed limit of 45 mph, he said. People pass him in the fast lane at 65 mph.
But Meredith McKown’s afternoon commute from Napa back to Fairfield remains slow. Traffic still slows as it nears the Solano/Napa line and the two eastbound lanes merge back into one eastbound lane.
“Until that bottleneck is gone, it’s not going to make a really significant difference,” she said.
Tuesday afternoon in particular, traffic was at a crawl for miles on eastbound Highway 12.
But she likes what she sees on the Napa County side. She likes the median that separates motorists from oncoming traffic.
For now, with the Solano County side still a construction zone, McKown prefers to continue commuting on the back roads through Wooden Valley and avoiding Highway 12 altogether.
The Solano County portion of Highway 12 poses a bigger challenge for construction crews because of that hill that must be carved out. More paving and other work lies ahead in coming months.
Jacala said work on the Solano County portion could be finished in August. That would complete the entire four-lane, $130 million Highway 12 widening project.
Then Caltrans will have a ribbon cutting and the grand opening. Then the fanfare will begin.
Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon carries about 32,000 vehicles daily. It is a major link between Solano and Napa counties. Caltrans’ stated reasons for doing the widening project is to improve both traffic flow and safety.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.