Starting this week, motorists who have just gorged on a Double-Double and chocolate shake should be able to exit the In-n-Out Burger parking lot on Dana Drive with ease. The improved access to burgers is only one upshot of the Dana to Downtown Redding project, for which a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled at 2 p.m. Tuesday, September 28.
No longer will shoppers in the Dana Drive and Hilltop area have to drive up Dana Drive -– and right past In-N-Out –- to get onto Highway 44 to downtown, west Redding and beyond. Instead, those shoppers may soon direct their cars to a new westbound Highway 44 onramp at the intersection of Dana and Hilltop.
“It will do a lot for local traffic circulation,” Caltrans Project Manager Phil Baker said Wednesday during a Shasta County Regional Transportation Planning Agency tour of the construction site.
In addition to the new Highway 44 onramp, the $66 million Dana to Downtown project involves a new and wider bridge over the Sacramento River, an expanded Sundial Bridge Drive interchange, and a new 1.1-mile-long bike and pedestrian path from Hilltop Drive to Turtle Bay and the Redding Convention Center.
The wider bridge will provide three traffic lanes in each direction, rather than the previous two, and should ease the rush-hour congestion on Highway 44, which is the primary goal of the project, Baker said. The new Sundial Drive interchange also provides more capacity.
“That will help tremendously with all the different events – Fourth of July, concerts,” Baker said.
However, the component that everyone wants to talk about, said Baker, was not even part of the original project design – the 12-foot-wide nonmotorized path. Only after the project commenced did managers learn that they had both enough money and enough physical space to build the bike path. Connecting to a year-old bike path that runs south and east from the Sundial Bridge, the new path provides an important route over the river for cyclists and pedestrians. The path also offers excellent views of ponds created by gravel excavation for Shasta Dam construction, the famous bald eagle nest, a beaver dam and, of course, the Sacramento River –- in which Redding Councilman Rick Bosetti, during Wednesday’s tour, spied one of the first fall run salmon to arrive in the area.
Unfortunately, the bike path will be open only for a preview on the 28th. Afterward, it be closed for about two weeks to permit workers to complete erosion control and some minor touch-ups. All of the motorized traffic lanes and ramps should be open on the 28th, although there may still be a bit of striping to finish after the 28th, Caltrans spokeswoman Denise Yergenson said. The median has been planted, but other landscaping will wait until spring, she added.
At the insistence of community leaders, the project is “not your vanilla project,” Baker added. It includes artistic sidewalks and retaining walls, metal sculptures and a great deal of decorative iron work.
Caltrans officials give Golden State Bridge, the primary contractor, a great deal of credit for completing construction more than one year ahead of schedule. Dana to Downtown is the second most expensive Caltrans project ever in the region, behind only the Antlers Bridge replacement on Interstate 5.
The public will have the opportunity to view all of the improvements up close during Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting event. The actual ribbon will be at the Dana and Hilltop intersection. Yergenson said people attending the ceremony should park in the Mt. Shasta Mall parking lot.
“We’re encouraging people to walk the trail, or ride a bike. There will be refreshments on the other end,” Yergenson said. “It’s a major project for Redding, and it’s something to celebrate.”
Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and always packs out what he packs in. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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