TRUCKEE, Calif. (AP) — Motorists will soon find a smoother roadway over the Sierra Nevada on Interstate 80.
A 15-year, $820 million rehabilitation project of the interstate between Auburn, Calif., and the Nevada line is expected to wrap up by Oct. 15.
Caltrans and local officials hailed the project’s completion at a ceremony last week at the newly constructed Donner Summit rest area above Truckee.
“We now have a smooth, safe, world-class highway that will benefit our residents, our businesses and millions of tourists who visit California,” Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said.
Before the “Get Across 80” campaign began in 1998, the Sierra portions of I-80 were severely worn, with large ruts due to high traffic volume and the area’s severe winters.
In addition to replacing worn pavement, Caltrans and its project partners upgraded drainage systems, rebuilt the Donner Summit and Gold Run rest areas, rebuilt or replaced several bridges and made other improvements.
“We just want to thank the motorists because they were so patient (during the project), they were so understanding,” Caltrans spokeswoman Rochelle Jenkins said. “We had detours and truck detours and everyone just understood the need. It was incredible.”
The new freeway is expected to have a longer life. Concrete slabs put down in key high-mountain sections are thicker, giving crews extra inches to grind down when the road becomes rutted. And slabs of different lengths are expected to cut down on the damaging up-and-down movement of trucks as they cross from one slab to another, said David Catania, Caltrans construction manager.
An average of 170,000 vehicles travels I-80 over Donner Summit daily, with that number tripling during peak times such as weekends and the ski season, according to Caltrans. In addition, $4.7 million of commerce travels over the summit every hour.
The original road was built between 1957 and 1964. In 1960, I-80 was completed to Truckee due to the 1960 Winter Games at nearby Squaw Valley, with national completion in 1986, Truckee Mayor Carolyn Wallace Dee said.
The highway now stretches 2,900 miles from Teaneck, N.J., to San Francisco, making it the second-longest interstate in the U.S. behind 3,101-mile Interstate 90.
Funding for the project came from the state and federal governments and California voter-approved bonds.