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 closureHighway 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.