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Caltrans Rebuilds SR 99 to Improve Safety and Traffic Flow in Live Oak

by: Debra Wood
A view of SR 99 construction looking north toward Elm Street intersection.
A view of SR 99 construction looking north toward Elm Street intersection.
Crews pour concrete for a parking spot as part of the SR 99 streetscape improvements in Live Oak, California.
Crews pour concrete for a parking spot as part of the SR 99 streetscape improvements in Live Oak, California.
Crews work on a colored concrete parking bay.
Crews work on a colored concrete parking bay.
A concrete pour takes place for an intersection portion of mainline near Elm Street.
A concrete pour takes place for an intersection portion of mainline near Elm Street.
Crews pave one half of the expanded SR 99 in Live Oak.
Crews pave one half of the expanded SR 99 in Live Oak.
Crews excavate in preparation for new lanes.
Crews excavate in preparation for new lanes.
Earth work takes place on SR 99, with traffic on the other side of a concrete barrier.
Earth work takes place on SR 99, with traffic on the other side of a concrete barrier.
Rebar for the continuous reinforced concrete section is shown at the intersection of Elm Street and Highway 99.
Rebar for the continuous reinforced concrete section is shown at the intersection of Elm Street and Highway 99.
A widened section of roadway is shown with forms for a new concrete center median.
A widened section of roadway is shown with forms for a new concrete center median.
Caltrans has embarked on the $36 million State Road 99 Live Oak Streetscape, Safety, and Roadway Improvement Project to improve traffic flow and enhance local accessibility, with hopes that it will serve as a catalyst for revitalization of the local economy and downtown core of the City of Live Oak.

“All of these improvements will enhance safety for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians while creating a pedestrian-focused downtown environment,” says Dwayne Grandy, Caltrans Resident Engineer. “Highway 99 is one of the region’s most important for goods movement, including industrial and agricultural haulers for Sutter County’s $700 million farm industry.”

About 20,000 vehicles drive this route daily. The count is expected to increase to 25,900 by 2040 and 31,500 by 2060.

“This is an exciting project that benefits motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists while contributing to the economic welfare of the state and local community in Live Oak,” said Amarjeet Benipal, Caltrans District 3 Director at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Highway 99 serves both as a main street within Live Oak and an important regional corridor for the commuters and agriculture and commercial operators.”

Live Oak developed as an agricultural community and has grown as a city alongside the highway. The highway now divides the city into east and west halves separating businesses, schools and neighborhoods, says Gilbert Mohtes-Chan, Public Information Officer for Caltrans District 3. During the school year, dozens of students cross the highway at the Pennington Road intersection to get to class and return home every day.

Rebuilding Throughout the City
The SR 99 project will widen the road from two to five lanes, upgrade drainage and utility systems, flatten cross slopes, add new sidewalks and curb ramps, rebuild two signalized intersections and enhance pedestrian safety with sidewalks, lighting, signaling, landscaping, and benches.

“This was a rare opportunity to rebuild an entirety of a highway corridor through an entire city,” Grandy says. “From one end of town to the other end, we’re rebuilding from one edge of state right-of-way to the other edge of state right-of-way. Everything we touch will be brand new.”

The existing highway profile is being lowered by up to 2 feet at the centerline at various locations, Grandy reports.

“This created logistical challenges between stages with providing access to businesses and residences and construction equipment,” he says. “Good foresight was used to alleviate hazards to the traveling public and work crews to complete this work in a safe manner.”

Caltrans worked with the contractor DeSilva Gates Construction of Dublin, California, and property owners on the sidewalks, planting areas and driveway tie-ins to the highway to ensure a quality project and that stakeholders’ needs were met.

Funding and Public Outreach
The project received a $10 million from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant; $2.3 million from Senate Bill 1 – the California Road Repair and Accountability Act; $2.3 million in local funds from the City of Live Oak; and $21.4 million in State and Federal Funding.

Grandy reports having a “great partnership with city of Live Oak and its city engineer, Scott Rolls, to construct the project and resolve issues affecting public infrastructure. This was a unique opportunity to work in a tight-knit community, to meet locals and try to meet their needs and lessen impacts to the town during construction.”

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The Caltrans public information office and construction team and the city coordinated and informed local business owners and the residents of ongoing construction activities through public outreach, a website, fliers, and social media and explained how construction activities could affect business operations, access and commuting.

“We developed a LiveOak99.com website for the community and are distributing a weekly construction newsletter to more than a 100 residents and partners, including staff,” Grandy says.

California Highway Patrol has assisted in traffic enforcement and ensured haulers abided to restrictions on wide freight loads traveling through the construction zone, Grandy adds.

Coordination is Crucial
Before construction began, Caltrans and the city worked together with utility companies to resolve conflicts and get all of the overhead utilities relocated underground, to improve safety and appearance, said Live Oak Mayor Bob Woten at the groundbreaking. The team also coordinated with the Union Pacific Railroad, whose busy freight trains travel through downtown, next to the highway, Grandy says.

“The communication, coordination and cooperation from our partners was crucial to keep this project on schedule,” Grandy adds. “What’s interesting is this project includes many construction disciplines: roadway, electrical, signals, concrete pavement, landscape, concrete flatwork, drainage, and utilities.”

Utility conflicts presented themselves, but were managed.

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“There were many conflicts with above ground but mostly below ground features,” Grandy says. “Water system, sewer system, gas and electrical lines, and communication lines all trying to build drainage, electrical, earthwork, etc. All these features were fighting for space. It was a common issue seen throughout project.”

But all in all, the project progressed. Grandy says he is most proud of the “outstanding collaboration among Caltrans, the City of Live Oak, DeSilva Gates, and the California Highway Patrol to keep the project on schedule and ensure work zone safety.”

Construction began on the 2.2-mile corridor in July 2020. The contractor sequenced and staged the construction to allow access to residential and business entities, including providing temporary entrances and side street access. Additionally, construction occurred when the businesses were closed.

Grandy reports this is the first use of the Low Impact Development (LID) feature in Northern California for Caltrans. LID is a drainage system that builds natural landscaping to filter and treat stormwater runoff as a bio-swale. In total, 42 LIDs are spread throughout town.

Construction is scheduled to finish up by yearend.

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“When completed, this project will transform and revitalize Live Oak’s downtown core, as well as improve Highway 99’s future traffic flow, user safety, local accessibility and regional goods movement,” Mohtes-Chan concludes.

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