680/4 project is all about safety

It is no secret that for too many years we have neglected our infrastructure.

As a result, Californians spend too much time in traffic, too much money on car repairs and far too little time with their friends and families.

As Contra Costa residents, we are all too familiar with the grueling commutes plaguing the Bay Area. As we are stuck in standstill traffic after a long day of work, we wonder: Will I make it home in time to see my kids before bedtime? How much of my paycheck goes to the gas I burn just idling? Are the drivers around me paying attention so I can get home safely?

Many local roads and highways are no longer capable of handling the volume of traffic that utilizes them daily, which leads to agonizing congestion. This could not be truer for the I-680/State Route 4 interchange, which was originally constructed in the 1960s – before Contra Costa County experienced a substantial economic and residential boom.

Today, this interchange serves upwards of 100,000 daily drivers, a reality arising in part from residents and workers having to commute farther between their homes and good-paying jobs.

The fact that this interchange is lacking the necessary capacity to efficiently serve our region has been apparent for years, with major reconstruction formally considered for nearly three decades now. Unfortunately, funding shortfalls have kept our county from implementing the largest transportation highway project since the Caldecott Tunnel Fourth Bore Project.

Improving the 680/4 interchange has long been one of my top priorities. Over the last two years, I have worked diligently with the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), California Transportation Commission (CTC) and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) to secure more than $77 million to finally bring critical upgrades to this interchange. This money will fund one of several phases of improvements CCTA plans to reduce congestion and increase safety.

Last month, we broke ground on this long-awaited project. Construction has now begun to widen four miles of SR4, providing a third lane in both directions between Morello Avenue in Martinez and State Route 242, extend on-ramp and off-ramp merging, retrofit bridges for seismic activity and install safety lighting. These improvements will also lay the groundwork for future phases to further enhance and improve traffic safety of the area.

Increasing capacity on this interchange is going to help ensure that residents and workers can spend less time on the road and more time at home, but it’s also going to help ensure that drivers are able to get home safely.

It’s easy to forget when we talk about transportation projects that what we are really talking about are safety projects. I am thrilled that this project will deliver much-needed safety improvements to one of the main transportation arteries for our area.

Tim Grayson