San Luis Obispo County will get its first freeway ramp meter after a flurry of roadwork begins this fall to relieve traffic congestion in Paso Robles.
Ramp meters are timed traffic lights that regulate when vehicles can enter the freeway. They’re most commonly seen in large metro areas.
The more than $6 million meter project and road improvements will be performed at the Highway 101 on-ramp where Spring Street meets Niblick Road.
Traffic engineers expect the meter will be needed after they construct a second left turn lane farther north where Highways 46 East and 101 meet near the Paso Robles Event Center.
“Right now, there’s a long line of cars from (the Fresno area) that line up trying to get through Paso or onto 101,” Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers said. By adding another left turn lane on Highway 46 East, planners hope to relieve the clog on that side of town.
Traffic engineers then looked at how the new lane would affect the Spring Street on-ramp farther south. They examined traffic volume and characteristics of the freeway — being two lanes of traffic — before deciding to install the meter. They aim to reduce freeway congestion that could come from the extra lane of traffic entering Highway 101 from the north.
Caltrans has been planning for this since 2004, adding the ramp meter to its plans in 2007.But the ramp meter may not be turned on right away.
Since “the double left puts more vehicles on the freeway at a greater rate,” Shivers said, planners want to see how merging traffic from the Spring Street on-ramp is affected before they flip the switch.
The second left turn lane will be constructed by restriping the road from westbound Highway 46 onto the southbound Highway 101 on-ramp.
The work will also:
Add a second lane to the existing southbound entrance ramp at the Highway 101/46 East interchange.
Modify the 13th Street overpass by reconstructing the curb returns at Riverside Avenue and concrete barriers on both sides.
Relocate the 16th Street off-ramp from Highway 101 to 17th Street.
Install a new southbound on-ramp to Highway 101 at 17th Street.
Add a southbound auxiliary lane between Highway 46 and the new on/off-ramps at 17th Street.
Earlier this month, the Paso Robles City Council awarded the construction contract to Papich Construction of Pismo Beach, which submitted the lowest bid of seven companies for about $6.7 million. The city will also use $1 million in grant funds.
Caltrans allocated about $10.1 million to the project. Since the work contract came in under bid, the state is saving about $3 million.