Fasten your seat belts East Bay drivers. The Interstate 880 Corridor Improvement Project, an eight-year effort to upgrade a 15-mile stretch of roadway between Oakland and Hayward, is entering yet another new phase.
This coming Sunday, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will shift traffic onto the new I-880 southbound bridge over Fifth Avenue in Oakland. (The recently completed southbound bridge is temporarily being used as an on-ramp by vehicles entering the freeway from Oak Street.)
The lane shift will give Caltrans construction crews space to begin demolition and reconstruction of the current 62-year-old bridge’s southbound lanes. If all goes as planned, the reconstruction will be completed in the summer of 2013.
According to Caltrans, once Sunday’s lane shift occurs, the Oak Street on ramp to southbound I-880 will have a shorter merge into traffic. Southbound traffic approaching the Oak Street on-ramp will gradually shift onto the new bridge structure.
Construction crews will begin the lane-shifting process late Saturday night. The highway will remain open with periodic lane closures until the shift is complete. The speed limit in the construction area will be reduced to 45 or 50 miles per hour and Caltrans advises motorists to adhere to all posted speed limits and signage in the area. Extra caution is being urged as motorists acclimate themselves to the new alignment and flow of traffic.
Matt Robinson, Caltrans spokesperson, said no additional lanes are being created by the construction, which began in 2009. “It will still be four lanes in this area, but the lanes will be wider and there will be an auxiliary lane for cars to pull off into in an emergency, which is not there now," he said.
When done, the project is expected to facilitate easier merging onto I-880 from the 5th Street on-ramp. The 5th Avenue Project is a partnership of the Alameda County Transportation Commission, the Port of Oakland, Union Pacific Railroad and the City of Oakland.
The ramp upgrade is one of eight that are part of the wider Interstate 880 Corridor Improvement Project. The improvements are being made along a 15-mile segment of the freeway between Oakland and Hayward and are expected to take eight years to complete.
According to Robinson, a similar lane-shifting scenario will play out again in October, further down the freeway, when the High Street Seismic Retrofit Project of Interstate 880 reaches a similar stage. Caltrans will issue traffic advisories through the media and will install message boards on the road to notify drivers of changes to that area in advance, he said.
The High Street Seismic Retrofit Project was developed through a partnership with the cities of Alameda and Oakland and the Alameda County Transportation Commission. Construction began in 2009 and it is scheduled to be completed by summer 2014. The estimated cost is $100 million.
That High Street portion of I-880 was built in 1950 and is considered by Caltrans to be vulnerable to damage in the event of a major earthquake. According to the agency, when construction is completed motorists should notice a smoother ride, better visibility and benefit from larger roadway shoulders to accommodate disabled vehicles. The exit ramps are being reconfigured to reduce back-ups entering and exiting the freeway at the 42nd Avenue interchange.
was issued for the duration of the High Street Seismic Retrofit Project due to pile driver use. Residents living in proximity to the area can check the Caltrans website periodically for anticipated dates and times such work will be underway.
As a result of the High Street area construction, E. Eighth Street in Oakland has been permanently closed beginning at 37th Avenue. This closure runs all the way to the south parking lot of the area's Home Depot store. When the project is complete this road will not reopen.
Each day there are over 200,000 car trips made on Interstate 880 and the road carries a significant amount of large truck traffic, according to Caltrans, all of which has taken its toll on the roadway and necessitated many of the repairs above and beyond the earthquake retrofitting portion of the work.