Our View: I-80 makeover will be smooth if we’re all safe

-A +A
If you’re finding nighttime travel between Auburn and Tahoe to be a little cumbersome, stay calm. Your patience will pay off. While truckers, skiers and lake-seeking vacationers have endured delays and detours the past two years on Interstate 80 in the Sierra, Caltrans upped the ante this past week with the Colfax-Gold Run rip-and-repair project of Interstate 80 in east Placer County. The makeover of 11 miles of worn freeway requires tedious detours at night, with motorists using Rollins Lake Road and trucks using the Highway 20/49 corridor. Closure dates and times vary, but updated information can be found at the project Web site, Sure, the detours are a pain, but relief will come in a rebuilt, smoother road surface between here and the Nevada state line – a pivotal link in the nation’s east-west freeway system. Interstate 80, which most local motorists equate with rush-hour frustration in Roseville and Sacramento, is a major artery in the heart of the country’s transportation network. Connecting San Francisco and New York City, the 2,900-mile I-80 rolls through 11 states and intersects with nine major north-south interstates, including I-5 in Sacramento. It spans the Bay Bridge, crosses the Continental Divide and links five state capitals. But the stretch between Colfax and the state line often has been compared to a cobblestone road from pioneer days. Fist-sized rocks and gaping cracks, exposed through years of rough weather and vehicle wear, make the journey uncomfortable at best and hazardous at times. The $420 million dedicated to the eight-stage project is money well spent. Products and goods from Bay Area ports and Central Valley farms need a safe, reliable road system for points east. Dozens of resorts, Lake Tahoe and Reno require a dependable freeway to attract skiers and vacationers. A construction project of this size, in the type of terrain and weather that is the Sierra, is bound to have a few hiccups along the way. Motorists and truck drivers must show patience for the detour process and display caution when driving through cone zones. Caltrans offers these safety tips on this and other work projects where orange cones are in sight and road construction workers are at risk. • Obey posted speed limits and drive with caution. • Watch for workers and expect the unexpected. • Don’t change lanes unnecessarily. • Avoid cell phone use, including Bluetooth-enabled devices. • Turn on headlights so that you can be seen. • Allow ample space between you and the vehicle in front of you. • Anticipate lane changes and merge when directed. Those who follow these guidelines will be rewarded with a slower but safe detour through the mountains. Those who don’t might end up with a fine, courtesy of the California Highway Patrol, which is taking project safety seriously. Be alert. Be safe. Be patient. We’ll all win with a smoother I-80.