During the past dozen years, an estimated 72 people have lost their lives on the portion of Highway 12 between Lodi and Suisun City, Lodi City Councilman Larry Hansen told a group of elected officials and Tower Park residents Tuesday.
That is far too many, and as far as Hansen is concerned, it took way too long to add some necessary safety features.
The first phase — which will extend from Flag City to the Mokelumne River bridge at the San Joaquin-Sacramento county line — began Monday night, according to Carrie Bowen, director of the California Department of Transportation's District 10, which includes San Joaquin County. The final phase will begin in the spring of 2013.
Improvements are being made because the section of Highway 12 between the west end of Lodi and Suisun City has seen considerable bloodshed on what is mostly a two-lane road.
Bowen noted that Highway 12 was constructed decades ago as a small country road, but now it's used for agriculture and recreation, and by commuters and people stationed at Travis Air Force Base.
"Thousands of motorists use this on a daily basis," Bowen said.
Here are the two phases:
Creation of what state transportation officials call a "smart corridor." This will include realigning Tower Park Way so that westbound motorists won't need to make left turns against oncoming traffic, extend existing turn lanes between Interstate 5 and Tower Park Way and expand the Park and Ride lot on Thornton Road.
Other features will include changeable message signs, highway advisory radio announcements, closed-circuit televisions and traffic monitoring stations.
De Silva Gates Construction was awarded the contract for the $20.5 million project. The money comes from about $15.5 million in state transportation funds and almost $4 million in Measure K funds. Measure K is generated by a half-cent sales tax in San Joaquin County.
Construction began Monday night and should be completed by February if the area has a dry winter, project manager Scott Guidi said. If next winter proves to be wet, completion will be delayed until the summer of 2013.
Beginning in the spring of 2013, workers will construct a new road to replace the existing Highway 12 on Bouldin Island between the Potato Slough and Mokelumne River bridges.
The $46.7 million project will include shoulders and a concrete median barrier that will eliminate head-on collisions and passing into oncoming traffic. Monday will come from the State Highway Operation and Protection Program.
Closer to Lodi, traffic signals were installed on Highway 12 at Davis and DeVries road. Those projects cost about $800,000 in state and county transportation funds.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.