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Bridge construction for 76 widening expected soon

The California Department of Transportation expects to begin work next month on a bridge that will cross the San Luis Rey River and will be part of the additional two lanes of State Route 76.

Work on the project to widen Highway 76 from two lanes to four between Melrose Drive in Oceanside and South Mission Road in Bonsall began January 4. “What we’re doing out there right now is just clearing brush,” said Caltrans project manager Mark Phelan. “Within a matter of weeks we’ll start bridge construction.”

The bridge will be located south of the current alignment and will carry the two eastbound lanes of traffic for that portion of the widened Highway 76; the existing alignment will be used to carry the two westbound lanes. The bridge construction phase will be the first actual construction work on the widening of Highway 76 and is estimated to take 18 months to complete.

After the bridge is completed, work will begin on widening the portions of Highway 76 east and west of the bridge. “This bridge will control the schedule of the whole project,” Phelan said.

The 18-month construction period estimate translates into completion in approximately mid-2011. While actual construction of other portions will not take place until the bridge is completed, grading will also occur while the bridge is being built. “There’s a lot of dirt to be moved,” Phelan said.

The location of the bridge will create a separation between the eastbound and westbound lanes. On segments of the road where the four lanes are on the same portion of pavement, a median barrier along the center will separate the opposite directions of traffic.

Completion of the widening from Melrose to Mission is scheduled to occur in December 2012. “Our contractor’s setting up a pretty aggressive schedule,” Phelan said. “We’re hoping we can beat that.”

In addition to the existing traffic signals at East Vista Way, North River Road, Olive Hill Road, and South Mission Road, additional traffic signals will be installed at the Singh access road, Via Montellano, and Thoroughbred Lane.

During a Caltrans media conference Feb. 9, Caltrans District 11 director Laurie Berman noted that the current state funding crisis would not affect Highway 76. “State Route 76 will continue on schedule,” she said.

The estimated construction cost for the widening between Melrose and Mission is $181.6 million. Funding will be provided from $75.3 million of federal stimulus funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, $16.8 million of federal demonstration funds, $13.5 million of state funding, and $76 million from the TransNet sales tax.

Berman also noted that the widening of State Route 76 between South Mission Road and Interstate 15 was one of the projects for which Caltrans will be asking for public input in the near future. “Public meetings on those projects are going to provide a good opportunity,” she said.

The draft Environmental Impact Report for the widening of Highway 76 east of South Mission Road has a target date of March 31.

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