Caltrans started the “FIX 50” project to widen Highway 50 in Sacramento on March 22, 2021. The project cost is $460 million and motorists will benefit from the addition of two carpool lanes. Driving on westbound Highway 50 near downtown has always been stressful at best. With cars that are exiting Highway 50 toward downtown, I-5 or the Capital City Freeway and other cars from the Capital City Freeway merging onto U.S. 50. The “Fix 50” project has created additional challenges.
The construction and increased confusion has led to an increase in collisions and injuries on westbound Highway 50. Between March and August 2021 the CHP has responded to over 350 collisions on Highway 50 between Watt Avenue and the Sacramento River, an average of almost about two collisions per day. The number of non-fatal injuries from collisions on westbound 50 increased from 98 between March and August of 2019 to 195 during the same period in 2021.
The CHP reports speed-related collisions increased 32 percent during the same period and “unsafe speed and distracted driving are the main factors,” said CHP spokesman Jim Young. The highest concentration of wrecks occurred in the 1.5 miles leading to the U.S. 99 interchange from the 51st street overpass to the interchange. Traffic leading up to that interchange lately travels at a broad mix of speeds due to construction and congestion.
Cars travelling in the far left lane move at a more brisk pace than the other cars, cars in the middle lanes often slow to a crawl or even stop as the driver attempts to exit onto the Capital City Freeway and all of this happens while cars in the far right lane travel at highway speeds toward the Stockton Boulevard exit. The result is drivers stuck in the middle lanes see others moving quickly around them and decide to merge into traffic. This is not ending well for far too many motorists and sideswipe collisions rose from 31 in March through August 2019 to 85 in March through August 2021. Unsafe lane change collisions rose from 26 to 76. Rear-end type collisions rose from 151 in March through August 2019 to 235 in March through August 2021.
Nighttime collisions between 6pm and 6am rose from 29 to 92. The number of collisions involving big trucks almost tripled from 12 in 2019 to 35 in 2021. The number of collisions involving motorcycles increased from 6 to 11 with no significant collision increase the eastbound lanes Highway 50 during the past several months, state data show.
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