It will take some time, but Highway 12 will slowly but surely become a safer road between Lodi and Suisun City, according to public officials and consultants.
Some 20 residents of Lodi and Tower Park Marina came to the Lodi Public Library on Tuesday night to hear short- and long-term plans for the two-lane highway that has been the scene of numerous fatal and major-injury accidents for years.
At least 66 people have died on Highway 12 from Lodi to Fairfield from 2000 through the end of 2009. Thirty-one of them died from crashes in San Joaquin County. Hundreds more — at least 248 in San Joaquin County alone — were injured.
Lifelong Lodi resident Roger Stafford said after Tuesday's meeting that he began driving on Highway 12 west of Lodi in 1963.
"We'd come home at night, and there was nobody on the road," Stafford said after a presentation by two consultants hired by Solano County to develop plans for Highway 12 improvements.
Then in the 1980s, Stafford said he noticed a major increase in traffic. He said he'd like to see Highway 12 become a four-lane highway, but realizes that it's too costly. A more realistic solution, he said, would be a permanent concrete median to prevent any more passing.
Beverly Rolfe, a 12-year Tower Park Marina resident, recalls the time several years ago when she was in the left-turn lane on westbound Highway 12 when someone passed her on the left and into oncoming traffic.
Trucks barrel on by, Rolfe said, making her wonder if the truck drivers realize she's stopped in the left-turn lane.
While some short-term solutions are planned for Highway 12 in the Tower Park area and Bouldin Island, planning consultants also addressed long-term solutions that will take more time and money that has yet to be allocated.
Another consultant, Tom Biggs, said he seeks public comment during the next few months on three possible strategies:
- A continuation of projects that have already been done in San Joaquin and Solano counties, such as wider shoulders and rumble strips.
- Concrete medians or special passing lanes.
- Converting portions of the highway to four lanes, though consultants said that may be too expensive to do in the long term. Other options include leveling the hillier parts of Highway 12 on the Solano County side and removing some opportunities to turn onto side roads.
"What we're trying to drive home is that we're ready for the engineers to do a thorough study of the three options," said Bob Macaulay, planning director for the Solano Transportation Authority, before Tuesday's meeting began. "Is there some piece of information we haven't thought of? Are we really ready to go forward?"
Macaulay and project consultants urged residents to tell them what they think of the shortand long-term options.
During his presentation, Biggs noted that Highway 12 traffic is expected to double to about 18,000 vehicles daily by 2035. Not only that, but the Rio Vista bridge, which crosses the Sacramento River, will stop vehicles for boat traffic about 440 times monthly in 2035. The drawbridge was lifted for boats 200 times a month in 2004, but due to the recession decreased to 100 times monthly last year.
Biggs listed several major issues regarding the Highway 12 corridor that will be addressed in a more detailed study next year. They include:
- Movement of freight and goods.
- Future commute levels in the Bay Area and Solano County.
- Major growth projected for Rio Vista.
- Increased shipping planned for the Port of Sacramento.
- Travis Air Force Base as a military installation.
- Preservation of the Delta's environment.
- Integrating the Delta's economy, environment and equity.
The next step will be developing a more detailed story, evaluating the three shortand long-term strategies and consultant recommendations for the short and long term, and developing cost estimates. Public meetings will be held in early in 2012 in Lodi and Fairfield.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.