Sunday, September 19, 2010

I-80 frontage road reopens

Finally, I-80 frontage road reopens

A freeway frontage road and a key link in Solano County's bike system should open by early October after being closed for 12 years because of landslides. Workers have spent the summer repairing the pavement on two miles of McGary Road in the hills between Fairfield and Vallejo at a cost of $2.5 million…. McGary Road is hardly a superstar among Solano County roadways. It is two narrow lanes and runs a mere 3.6 miles, from Red Top Road near Cordelia Villages in Fairfield to the Hiddenbrooke subdivision in Vallejo. Fairfield closed the two miles within its borders in 1998 and county traffic didn't grind to a halt. Yet McGary Road provides the only frontage road to this section of Interstate 80 in case accidents block the freeway. It provides Fairfield residents the most direct route to reach Lynch Canyon Open Space, with its nine miles of hiking trails. For bike riders, the road has particular significance. With the two miles of McGary Road closed, cyclists going from Fairfield to Vallejo faced long detours. They could take frontage roads along Interstate 680 to Benicia and then take Lake Herman Road to Vallejo. Or they could take a potentially harrowing ride on narrow Highway 12 through Jameson Canyon toward Napa and take Highway 29 to Vallejo. Or, rather than see a relatively short journey turned into a long one, some people simply slipped their bikes under the locked gate and took McGary Road anyway, despite the damaged pavement…. Plus, for long-distance cyclists, it is the missing link in the route between San Francisco and the Lake Tahoe/Reno area…. Trouble started for McGary Road after heavy rains of the 1990s exacerbated ancient, underground slides and got the hillsides in the area moving. Pavement on McGary Road and adjacent I-80 heaved up dramatically in 1998. The state continually repaired the freeway, but Fairfield was unwilling to bear the constant expense needed to smooth out fissures on its road. The city initially closed McGary Road to auto traffic only and let cyclists continue to use it. Then, in August 1998, a cyclist riding there at night got into an accident that reports at the time attributed to road conditions and died. Fairfield put up the gate. A few years ago, the state Department of Transportation put in two giant drains a couple of hundred feet deep into the hills near McGary Road and pumped water out. The agency wanted to at least slow the slides tearing up I-80 and keep this major link in the region's transportation system from closing. If the move succeeded for the freeway, it would also succeed for McGary Road. Meanwhile, local cyclists through such forums as the Solano Transportation Authority Bicycle Advisory Committee lobbied for the reopening of McGary Road. By 2006, the giant Caltrans drains had halted pavement deterioration on McGary Road enough that Fairfield was willing to rebuild and reopen the road. It would then de-annex the road and turn it over to Solano County for maintenance. But it had to find the money. Fairfield, working with the county and the STA, started stitching together various funding sources to raise the necessary $2.5 million. The final piece fell into place when the project got $1 million in federal stimulus money. In addition, Solano County decided to repave the section of McGary Road that has remained open beyond Fairfield's borders, a task it has been doing in recent days. That means the entire length of McGary Road will look new….