FAIRFIELD — A new Interstates 80 and 680 interchange will take shape in bite-size pieces, seven in all.
That’s the plan for dealing with this longtime central Solano County traffic bottleneck. The planned solution involves moving the interchange about a half-mile west and combining it with the interchange for Highway 12 east, leading to Napa.
Doing everything could cost $740 million. The Solano Transportation Authority doesn’t want to wait until this money is available in a lump sum so the project can be built all at once, perhaps decades from now.
Instead, it is working with the state Department of Transportation to construct the new interchange step-by-step, with each step a stand-alone project.
“I would certainly say each one is going to add incremental benefits to the system,” Solano Transportation Authority Director of Projects Janet Adams said.
Not that everything is set in stone.
“This is what we’re viewing today,” Adams said. “Certainly, we may do some tweaks as we go along, as we do designs on each one.”
Drivers on I-80 near the interchange can already see the preparation work for the first $116 million bite. Workers are relocating utilities, with construction to begin in earnest next year.
Package One, as its called by the Solano Transportation Authority, involves building a new Green Valley interchange and new ramps leading to Highway 12 at the entrance to Jameson Canyon. These new ramps are to lessen the maneuverings among I-80 traffic exiting for Highway 12, Green Valley Road traffic heading to Highway 12 and Green Valley Road traffic entering I-80. It will include a bridge structure as a separator.
All the money is available for construction. All that remains is for Solano County’s next major new freeway project to be built.
Even before the bulldozers get busy, the Solano Transportation Authority is planning its next step. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Sept. 25 allocated $5.5 million to design Package Two and Package Three.
The goal is to get the two projects ready to build. Then transportation officials must find money to buy the necessary land and for construction. They will seek federal and state grants as among the possible sources.
One step at a time. Here is a look at how the new interchange is to take shape in coming years.
A new Red Top Road interchange is to be built on Interstate 680 at Lopes Road. Adams said Fairfield has long envisioned having an interchange here and has left room for it.
The Red Top Road interchange will be a key area. Just north of it, I-680 will be rerouted in subsequent packages on an arcing journey that will see it connect with I-80 about a half-mile west of the present interchange.
Package Two is to cost $98.2 million.
This phase of the projects both gives and takes away.
It builds a new onramp from westbound I-80 to southbound I-680, complete with a bridge structure that arcs over I-80 about a half-mile west of the present interchange. Traffic will be passing through the industrial area about a block from Rodriguez High School, with some of the industrial buildings targeted for removal. The ramp ends up near the Red Top Road interchange on I-680 created in Package Two.
Targeted for removal is the existing onramp from west I-80 to south I-680.
In addition, the package builds an onramp to westbound I-80 from the Suisun Valley Road interchange.
No ramp exists today. Traffic wanting to enter westbound I-80 from Suisun Valley Road today must drive along Neitzel Road to Business Center Drive and then go to the Green Valley interchange. The project removes Neitzel Road.
Package Three is to cost $184 million.
Another long and arcing onramp with a bridge gets built through the industrial area a block from Rodriguez High School, this one to take northbound I-680 traffic to eastbound I-80.
Once the new connectors between I-80 and I-680 are established, about a mile-long segment of I-680 connecting to the old interchange will no longer be needed as a freeway. This stretch is targeted to become a Fairfield road, one of the few that is four lanes with a median of oleander. It will connect to the new Green Valley interchange built in Package One.
This is when the North Connector really becomes the North Connector.
The road presently goes from near I-80 at Abernathy Road westward to Green Valley, incorporating the Suisun Parkway and Business Center Drive, until it dead-ends on Business Center Drive west of Costco. Now it will be pushed over the hills, connect with Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon at a new interchange, then curve to meet I-80.
This project is designed to give motorists more options for getting around the Green Valley/Cordelia area without getting on the freeway.
“It’s local roads for local traffic,” Adams said.
Another new bridge-and-ramp structure will take northbound I-680 to westbound Highway 12 at the entrance to Jameson Canyon.
Yet another arcing ramp gets built over the industrial area, this one to handle carpool lanes only connecting between I-80 and I-680. The connections will take place in the middle of the freeways, where the carpool lanes are located.
A final ramp will be built through the industrial area, taking out more buildings. This one connects eastbound I-80 with southbound I-680 heading toward Benicia. Another looping ramp connects northbound 680 with westbound I-9-80 heading toward Vallejo.
Call this last package a finishing touch, constructing the ramps expected to handle the least amount of traffic.
Then all the building will be done and the interchange completed. Solano County’s notorious bottleneck should be a thing of the past. Given that state Department of Transportation officials held public meetings in Cordelia Villages in the early 1990s pitching a now-discarded interchange solution, the end will have been a long time coming.
Project manager Dale Dennis said building all seven packages could take 10 years, 20 years or 30 years.
“It’s all about the money, not about how long it takes to build it,” Adams added.
Then transportation leaders can concentrate on whatever new bottlenecks have arisen as the area continues to grow in coming decades.
“You’re never done,” Adams said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.