Caltrans repaved Highway 99, but ignored the bridges and overpasses

February 9, 2014 

When the California Department of Transportation told me a year ago that they were repaving Highway 99 throughout Stanislaus County, I thought they meant all of the highway. Who wouldn’t?

Tim Sanders of Ceres wondered about that.

“It’s just a mess on top of the bridges and overpasses,” he said. “There’s one pothole just south of Taylor Road in the southbound lane that I hit almost every time. But all of them are bad. What’s going on?”

I checked with my new buddies at Caltrans (they seem to change public relations folks as often as most people change the oil in their cars) and found out that Tim is right. When a previous spokesman told me they were repaving all of Highway 99 in the county, he should have said all except for the bridges and overpasses.

If he were still at Caltrans, we could send him a dictionary.

Here’s the scoop:

Chantel Miller, chief of public and legislative affairs and executive services for Caltrans’ District 10 (now there’s a mouthful!) said the recent “resurfacing and restoration project replaced the base pavement with new concrete pavement on 25 miles” on Highway 99 “from the San Joaquin County line to the Merced County line.”

She said the project cost $90.2 million, which was “funded through savings – other projects coming in under budget – in the state highway operation and protection program.” Besides the repaving, crews “installed rumble strips on the inside and outside medians, performed fog sealing, re-striped the roadway and replaced the pavement markers, as well.”

Then she added the kicker: “This particular project scope did not include overpasses and bridges.”

OK, so Caltrans resurfaced the highway from one end of the county to the other, except not really. Surely, if they went to all that trouble, there must be a plan in place to repave those other important areas of the highway, right?

“We are continually looking for funding opportunities for additional projects on the state highway system,” Miller said. “While there are no projects in the works to specifically address the bridges and overpasses, our maintenance crews continue to monitor these locations and make repairs as needed. There is a project scheduled for the summer of 2015, which will dig out and pave all four ramps at six locations including Lander Avenue, Main Street, Fulkerth Road, Monte Vista, Taylor Road and Beckwith Road.”

So the highway won’t be repaved on those overpasses but the ramps leading to and from them will be.

That won’t help folks like Tim but there is a way to fix the worst spots on those overpasses. Miller said Caltrans crews continually work to maintain the highway, including pothole repairs.

People can report potholes to the public information office at (209) 948-7977, by email to district10publicaffairs@dot.ca.gov or online at www.dot.ca.gov/hq/maint/msrsubmit. Miller said the reports should include the state route number (in this case, Highway 99), the nearest cross street, direction of travel, and your name and contact information.

I hope someone reports the bridge in the northbound lane just south of Modesto’s B Street exit. I’d call it a very roughly paved bridge over troubled waters but in this drought, there’s not much water, troubled or otherwise. I also won’t say it because if I do, someone would write a letter to the editor saying “shame on you” for being too flip.

Instead, I’ll just flip the ball into your court and invite you to send me your questions. What’s on your mind this week?

Send questions to Sue Nowicki at snowicki@modbee.com, fax to (209) 578-2207 or mail to P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256.

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