Very nice article in the Sacramento Bee reporting on the new interchange being built on Highway 50 at Watt Avenue which will make access to the Parkway much easier for folks on the south side of Folsom Blvd.
For more than a decade, Sacramento has been rebuilding the string of interchanges that serve Highway 50, giving each a muscular, modern design, preparing them for an expected east county growth boom in the coming years.
Sunrise was upgraded years ago. Zinfandel, Mather Field and Bradshaw, too. Now, it’s Watt Avenue’s turn.
Unlike the earlier interchanges, though, the $23 million Watt project, under way since November, includes an extra set of amenities designed to decrease the region’s heavy reliance on cars.
Watt will get new lanes in each direction, making it the widest overpass in Sacramento, and its tight merge lanes will be replaced with broader, straighter ramps.
But Sacramento County officials have also added a center lane reserved for buses only, and are building a separate paved pathway for pedestrians and cyclists, with underpasses that will enable those groups to get over the freeway without having to cross streets or freeway ramps.
The result, Sacramento County officials say, will be to turn the section of Watt Avenue at Highway 50 into a multi-use transportation corridor.
“You’ll have cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians using one interchange without conflict,” project manager John Jaeger said. “As far as I know, there is nothing like it in the state.”
The bus “guideway” will run from the Regional Transit light-rail station south of Folsom Boulevard over the freeway to La Riviera Drive on the north side.
Transit officials say they hope the sight of buses driving past stalled traffic will encourage more commuters to try transit.
“Traffic can be stopped, and the buses go flying by,” RT General Manager Mike Wiley said during project groundbreaking ceremonies.
Wiley said his agency hopes eventually to extend the bus lane concept to other parts of Watt. But roadway space is limited. The separate bus guideway on the overpass will contain only a single lane.
Buses will have to be scheduled so that two buses coming in opposite directions are not trying to cross the bridge at the same time.
Some residents have expressed concerns about the safety of the four planned bike and pedestrian underpasses, saying they fear someone looking to commit a crime might lurk there.
On a tour of the site last week, Sacramento County’s Jaeger pointed out that those underpasses are short, wide and well-lighted. Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to see through each tunnel for some distance beyond as they approach it.
“We’ve designed these for maximum visibility,” Jaeger said, standing at the broad entrance to the first of the underpasses.
Jaeger said the new design will create a more pleasant cycling connection between Folsom Boulevard and the American River.
“It’ll provide access from Rosemont by bike to the American River … a safe facility that families can use,” he said. “With the light-rail station nearby, it’ll get a lot of people out of their cars and onto bikes.”