Update on Caltrans plan to improve Highway 49 bridge over the Mokelumne

Courtesy photo: Caltrans

In our last newsletter, we let you know of our involvement in Caltrans’ environmental review of plans to make safety upgrades to its Highway 49 bridge over the Mokelumne south of Jackson.

Caltrans has completed its final environmental document that outlines plans to upgrade the Highway 49 bridge to conform to current safety standards (https://dot.ca.gov/-/media/dot-media/district-10/documents/projects/ama-49-mokelumne-river-bridge-upgrade/sr49-mok-rvr-brdg-f-100×752-0620.pdf). It plans to replace the bridge rails and widen the deck to accommodate pedestrians and bicycles. We have been in contact with Caltrans since they released their draft environmental document last October.

We made several comments to their draft document over concerns with traffic delays, emergency vehicle access between counties, fire escape routes, breeding birds, and recreational access. We also had a meeting with other conservation partners, CalFire, and Caltrans staff to discuss solutions to our concerns. The resulting final document published in June incorporates those comments and discussions.

Caltrans has largely addressed all outstanding issues with the project. Some of the mitigation measures that will be in place include:

  • Having flaggers on-site during high-use times, including holidays and weekends. When flaggers are not on-site, Caltrans will rely on vehicle-actuated signals. The estimated average wait time is 4 minutes.
  • Looking into the cost of installing an emergency vehicle override on the traffic signal.
  • Clearly marking the entrance and exit to Electra Road and Big Bar Launch so that traffic does not back up and block vehicle entrance and exit.
  • Not staging equipment in the developed portion of the Big Bar Launch and providing their own portable toilets for construction workers.
  • Employing one or more breeding bird mitigation measures, depending on the time of year the project begins.

In addition, Caltrans has scheduled a site visit with us and American Whitewater to discuss project activities to ensure they don’t encroach on the boating takeout for the Big Bar Launch.

The project is planned to begin in 2022.

Caltrans has also begun draft environmental documents for upgrades to the Highway 26 bridges over the Mokelumne River in Calaveras County. We will continue to work with the agency to make the construction phase of the Highway 49 project as seamless as possible and to ensure that local concerns are addressed on Highway 26 as well.

For more information, contact Shane Dante by email.

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Leslie Smith, Sutter Creek, CA: Raised in Washington State, Leslie is a happy California transplant having moved to Sunny Sutter Creek full time in 2020. As a nascent fly fisher and lifelong skier, she is committed to the natural environment and brings extensive organizational and finance experience to the board from a nearly 40 year career in banking.