Traffic patterns to change at braided ramps project

FRESNO, Calif.

It's caused sporadic traffic delays on Highway 180 between Highway 168 and the Highway 41 interchange for several months. Hundreds of thousands of drivers pass through that interchange in Central Fresno.

In an effort to open the newly built connector ramps traffic patterns will soon change and the project designers hope that won't create more problems through the heavily congested construction zone.

The sights and sounds of a busy road construction project can often be distracting. Project planners use signs to minimize driver confusion. But soon the nearly $50 million job will send cars on another path to make room for crews to work.

"Everything we see is going to be changing," said Fresno County Transportation Authority advocate Rose Willems. "We're going to have new traffic patterns, which mean we're asking motorists to take an alternate route or leave with plenty of time so they're not late for their next stop."

Planning ahead and paying attention are key to safety in this work zone. The California Highway Patrol says it's easy to be drawn into looking at what's being built. But, rubber necking has already caused a significant increase in fender benders and other crashes through this interchange.

"One of the biggest things that people will fail to do is slow down and give yourself a safe margin of traveling distance," said CHP Capt. Dave Paris. "They don't realize the perception time, the reaction time for stopping."

Right now crews are putting together sound walls and finishing up sections of the new ramps. Specific dates for traffic pattern changes are still being worked out.

Project supervisors hope the adjustments won't cause too much additional congestion especially with drivers heading to the Big Fresno Fair in October.

"There will be new ways to get on and off the connecter ramps," Willems said. "There will be new ways to get on and off, for instance, at Cedar Avenue. We're going to have to put metering there."

Both construction crews and the CHP say surviving the congested commute here is simple; slow down and pay attention. Transit officials are hoping to announce the new traffic patterns and when they go into effect at a news conference a week from Friday.

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