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Study to look at Highway 12 between I-80, I-5

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Posted: Sunday, September 13, 2009 10:00 pm

Highway 12 between Interstate 80 in Solano County and Interstate 5 in San Joaquin County is going to get a big-picture look.

An upcoming study is a nod to the idea that this 40-mile stretch of highway is a regional route carrying traffic from the Central Valley over the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Bay Area. While some people might make a short journey on it, say from Rio Vista to Fairfield, many others drive the length between the freeways.

Given that, the new study will look at the entire corridor. It will bring together many jurisdictions with an interest and oversight over certain sections, such as Solano, Sacramento and San Joaquin counties and the state Department of Transportation districts 3 , 4 and 10.

"We want drivers to be safe on the entire route," Solano Transportation Authority Director of Planning Robert Macaulay said. "We don't want the safety to change when you cross the county line."

Handling growing traffic and improving safety are two major motivating factors behind the study. Highway 12 for the most part looks like a two-lane country road, even though it carries an average of 17,000 autos daily near Terminous and 21,000 autos daily near the Sacramento River. Head-on collisions have long been a concern.

The Highway 12 of the future might be four lanes. It might be elevated as it passes east of Rio Vista over Delta islands that have subsided several feet below sea level and are protected from flooding by levees. It might have a different alignment in places, such as running north or south of Rio Vista instead of through the middle of town.

Or the $955,647 study, once completed in February 2011, might recommend yet a different future as yet unforeseen.

Other studies have looked at pieces of the highway. One addressed traffic improvements east of the Sacramento River, another addressed improvements west of the river, while another study under way focuses on the Rio Vista Bridge.

But whatever happens along one segment of Highway 12 can affect another segment, no matter what the jurisdiction, Macaulay pointed out. For example, widening the Rio Vista Bridge to four lanes would do only so much good if the bridge over Potato Slough 10 miles to the east remained two lanes.

"Then you end up with a major congestion point that's at risk for a lot of rear-end accidents," Macaulay said.

Past Highway 12 studies used different assumptions on how much future traffic will travel the highway, Macaulay said. They are missing such topics as climate change and potential sea level rise. They don't set priorities for the entire I-80 to I-5 segment.

Simply mashing together those past studies won't work, he said.

Rio Vista resident Jim Malone is president of the Highway 12 Association. The grassroots group for years has brought together residents from along the highway and officials from various agencies, such as Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol, for monthly meetings at The Point Waterfront Restaurant overlooking the Sacramento River in Rio Vista.

Highway 12 closure

Highway 12 will close from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday from Highway 160 east of the Rio Vista Bridge to Interstate 5 near Lodi. Workers will be doing pavement repair and maintenance. Only local traffic will be allowed. The detour for through traffic goes from Highway 160 north to Walnut Grove Road to Interstate 5, which is an extra 30 miles.

Malone likes the idea of a Highway 12 study that addresses safety and other issues over the entire 40-mile segment.

"The dangers, which are what have caught everybody's attention over the past few years, have certainly been on both sides of Rio Vista," he said.

He does have one reservation.

"We've got to move beyond the study phase," he said. "We're in the habit of doing a lot of studies and it takes forever to go beyond that."

The Solano Transportation Authority Board on Wednesday agreed to spend $150,000 on the study, with other money coming from the other jurisdictions, including $455,000 from Caltrans.

Representatives from the STA, San Joaquin Council of Governments and Sacramento Area Council of Governments could meet later this year or early next year as the State Route 12 Corridor Advisory Committee to discuss the study, Macaulay said. He also expects to hold meetings along the corridor at some point that would target the public.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 4:57 pm on Thu, Sep 17, 2009.


    Stormin: Look closer at your map, Heading south on 80 you turn off onto Hwy 12 before the scales to I5 or 99. Heading West on 12 to 80 from I5 turn North (no scales). Truckers are pretty clever to dodge scales and CB radios pass the information around.

  • posted at 3:10 am on Thu, Sep 17, 2009.


    Lodiman,You should check your map. Traveling west the first thing you see when you merge onto Hwy 80 is the truck scales. Traveling east the last thing you see before getting off on Hwy 12 is the truck scales.

  • posted at 6:34 am on Wed, Sep 16, 2009.


    Almost a million dollars for this study, not to mention all the hundreds of thousands for studies coming before it.What is there to study? Its a basic tenet of highway saftey that wider roads, with shoulders and dividers between the different directions, and well maintained surfaces are safer.So the problem is that this road is poorly maintained, too narrow, lacks shoulders and a safety barrier. Fix those things, and the road will be safer.There, caltrans, I just saved you $1M bucks. Now go use it to fix the road and quit all the fuss about studies...

  • posted at 11:13 am on Mon, Sep 14, 2009.


    highway 12 is a bypass to dodge the scales at Cordelia for 18 wheelers. Hundreds of trucks a day are destroying a road never made for that much load bearing travel. Portable scales should be installed.

  • posted at 8:33 am on Mon, Sep 14, 2009.


    I'd like to be on the Hwy 12 Association because they meet and eat at the Point - the view is way excellent!But seriously, Macaulay is correct that safety should not change once you cross the county line, and between I-80 to 99 you cross three counties - Solano, Sacramento & San Joaquin!! Kinda like best, middlin', and worst in that order! It gets very dangerous in the San Joaquin!

  • posted at 7:22 am on Mon, Sep 14, 2009.


    About time, that route to the bay area is upgraded; here's hoping the changes come quickly and achieve making the route safer.



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