Big changes ahead for drivers on Los Osos Valley Road in SLO

Construction continues July 30, 2015, on the Los Osos Valley Road interchange at Highway 101.
Construction continues July 30, 2015, on the Los Osos Valley Road interchange at Highway 101. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

As work continues on a massive project to improve a long-congested San Luis Obispo interchange with Highway 101, drivers should be prepared for a few big changes in the next month.

The $33 million project, one of the city’s largest public works projects in 30 years, will widen Los Osos Valley Road to four lanes from Calle Joaquin to South Higuera Street.

The widening will be done by adding a second bridge over Highway 101, which eventually will carry eastbound traffic on Los Osos Valley Road. The existing bridge will become one-way for westbound traffic.

The roadwork also includes building sidewalks, 6.5-foot-wide bike paths over the highway and improvements to on- and off-ramps.

The three-lane Los Osos Valley Road interchange was built in 1962 and in recent years became notorious for traffic jams.

Work started Oct. 27 on the interchange improvement project and is expected to be done in summer 2016. The construction will cost about $24 million; the rest of the money went toward planning, environmental documents and other so-called “soft costs.”

One of the most challenging stages of the work will start in mid-August.

Starting about Aug. 13, the existing Los Osos Valley Road southbound off-ramp will be closed, and vehicles will be temporarily re-routed to Calle Joaquin, a two-lane road north of Los Osos Valley Road.

Businesses along Calle Joaquin will remain open.

“Putting all the southbound ramp traffic onto a local street can have its challenges,” project manager Jason Bennecke said. “We’re doing what we can to minimize traffic disruptions for the businesses. We will have parking restrictions along Calle Joaquin.”

The arrangement is expected to last four to six months. It is the only way to reconstruct the ramp and still maintain southbound access to Los Osos Valley Road, Tim Bochum, San Luis Obispo’s deputy director of transportation, said in a news release.

Much of the work to date has been building the new bridge.

The project’s next phase, starting in late August, involves temporarily rerouting both eastbound and westbound traffic on Los Osos Valley Road onto that new bridge over Highway 101 while retaining walls can be built for the existing bridge and work can be done in Prefumo Creek, Bennecke said.

In addition, the intersection at the southbound on- and off-ramps will be raised about 5 feet to alleviate drainage and flooding problems.

The traffic signal at the southbound exit at Los Osos Valley Road will be non-functional once the off-ramp is closed, meaning that drivers heading east and west on the road will have a consistent green light at that intersection, Bennecke said.

“That’s a plus,” he added.

But drivers heading west on Los Osos Valley Road from Higuera Street will no longer be able to turn left onto the southbound onramp. Instead, they’ll need to continue on South Higuera Street to southbound Highway 101.

For drivers heading east on Los Osos Valley Road, the southbound onramp will remain open for their use.

For information, dial 511, go to www.lovr101.org or www.facebook.com/lovr101slo.