More than 100 people turned out at the McHenry Avenue ‘pre-construction’ meeting hosted at the Escalon Community Center on Monday night, getting a clearer picture of what the major improvement project will mean for them – and all motorists along McHenry and River roads in the months ahead.
“Absolutely, we were very pleased with the turnout and the question we heard a lot was, are we going to close the bridge or the road,” explained Awni Taha, San Joaquin County Public Works Department acting field engineer/manager.
Taha said there are no plans to shut the traffic down entirely but there will be lane closures and traffic shifts while the bridge over the Stanislaus River is replaced.
“We had two duplicate stations with a set of three exhibits,” Taha explained of the meeting set up, which ran from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on April 24. Residents could come in when they had the time, look over the exhibits, discuss concerns with project officials and, hopefully, Taha said, leave with some good information.
The total project will include widening 1.1 miles of McHenry Avenue from some 1,500 feet south of River Road to 190 feet south of Jones Road; replacement of bridges on McHenry both over the Stanislaus River and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District canal; installation of a center two-way left turn lane on McHenry and placement of a traffic signal at the intersection of McHenry and River roads.
Benefits of the roughly $22 million project will include enhanced safety, relieve existing and future traffic congestion along the heavily traveled route, improve access, circulation and air quality and bring the bridges up to current seismic design standards.
“We had boards on easels, we did have a video that we placed on a loop, basically narrating what the project is about,” said Taha.
The project is scheduled for a ‘soft start’ at the end of this month or the first week of May and completion of the total project isn’t anticipated until mid-2020, about a three-year period.
“There will be significant traffic delays during construction,” admitted Taha. “We’re going to revert back to the four-way stop at McHenry and River, we will be doing some shifting of traffic as we widen the road, there will be temporary (one) lane closures.”
Taha said many people that attended the Monday night session spoke highly of the temporary roundabout that was installed but noted that there isn’t enough room to make it permanent; it will be replaced eventually by the traffic signal at the River and McHenry intersection.
The first part of the project will see construction of the northbound side of the Stanislaus River bridge, from summer 2017 to summer 2018, then southbound bridge construction from summer 2018 to fall of 2019. Roadway widening work will be intermittent, throughout the project period.
The video outlining the work will be available on the improvemchenry.com website, said Taha, and residents can also get regular updates through a number of venues. Call the project hotline at 209-497-5111; email firstname.lastname@example.org; text McHenry to 41411 or visit www.ImproveMcHenry.com.
Most of the construction work will be done weekdays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a few incidents of nighttime work.
All of the businesses in the project area will remain open and accessible during construction, officials said.