A who’s who of local officials and state representatives stood on a dusty hill in El Dorado Hills Thursday afternoon to kick-start construction of the community’s newest road project.
Golden shovels turned the first dirt on a Highway 50 interchange project more than 20 years in the making — the Silva Valley interchange. El Dorado County District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco called the project “a key piece of infrastructure” and commended the current Board of Supervisors, as well as past supervisors, for ensuring that it moved forward.
“Our roadway network is one the biggest assets we have,” Mikulaco said. “Anytime we can make it better, it makes the community better.”
Phase 1 of the Silva Valley interchange project is planned just east of the current Silva Valley Parkway-White Rock Road thruway. The first phase includes building a new four-lane road and a six-lane bridge over Highway 50, as well as onramps and offramps and signalized intersections. Tong Road will be shifted to the north and the current Silva Valley Parkway-White Rock Road will remain a two-lane road.
Initial work, once scheduling and water pollution control plans are complete, will focus on footings for the new Silva Valley over-crossing and ramps as well as tree removal (before the birds can build nests), according to DOT Deputy Director, Engineering, John Kahling. When the spring construction season begins crews will tackle more heavy-duty roadwork, he said.
El Dorado Hills residents, Highway 50 commuters and visitors can expect construction to continue for about two years.
“If everything goes perfectly we could be done in late 2015,” Kahling said, “but realistically sometime in 2016.”
The Silva Valley interchange has been on many county maps since 1988. In anticipation of massive growth in El Dorado Hills, plans for the interchange were approved by Caltrans and county officials in 1991. The environmental review process began in 2010 and supervisors unanimously approved the project’s EIR in June 2011.
In October 2013, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors approved a $29.715 million Silva Valley interchange construction contract with Myers & Sons Construction, a not-to-exceed $3 million construction support services contract with Vail Cooper and Associates and a not-to-exceed $338,000 design support services contract with Mark Thomas & Co., the firm that designed the interchange.
Funding for the $33 million phase 1 comes from a State and Local Partnership Program grant, two Silva Valley interchange set-aside funds, Highway 50 traffic impact mitigation fees and El Dorado Irrigation District reimbursement. Developer advanced funds provided by West Valley LLC (AKT Development Corp. and Lennar Communities), the companies behind the Blackstone project on Latrobe Road, picked up a majority of the cost, $22 million. The Board of Supervisors and West Valley reached a prepayment deal in 2004.
“The Blackstone subdivision agreement required the developer to advance fund more public improvements than any development agreement in county history and I am very proud of our success in negotiations and the benefits we secured for the residents of El Dorado County,” said former District 2 supervisor Helen Baumann. “The agreement required the developer to provide the necessary funding for the completion of the Silva interchange, the widening of Latrobe Road and the completion of the El Dorado Hills Library. County Auditor Joe Harn deserves a lot of credit for helping us negotiate this agreement with AKT.”
Blackstone development partner Mike McDougall, president of MJM Properties and Silva Valley interchange design project manager, said this is the sixth public/private in which his company has participated. Since 1999, such partnerships have contributed more than $100 million toward El Dorado County road improvements — a vital component of the funding process since county-collected fees alone could never cover the ever-rising costs of project planning and road construction, according to McDougall.
“This is our duty and responsibility as large land owners to step up and do this,” he said, adding that it’s a great partnership for everyone involved. “If the county succeeds and the community succeeds, we succeed.”
The Blackstone development is one-third built out with 1,400 homes planned. The neighboring East Ridge development, with 700 residential units, is still in the planning phase.
Putting construction-weary residents at ease, Mikulaco pointed out that the Highway 50/El Dorado Hills Boulevard project is almost complete and said the Silva Valley project will have very little impact on drivers since crews will be building an entirely new road.
“In the end it will be a great project for everyone,” he said.
Mikulaco’s predecessor John Knight agreed, predicting that the new interchange would not only relieve traffic congestion but also positively impact local businesses in El Dorado Hills Town Center and the El Dorado Hills business park.
El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Debbie Manning has similar hopes, saying, “The Silva Valley interchange will provide an alternate route to the El Dorado Hills Boulevard/Latrobe Road intersection (and) that will ultimately reduce traffic on Highway 50. This will prove beneficial for business retention in El Dorado Hills and will help in the attraction of employers.”
The Silva Valley interchange is also component of the much larger Capital Southeast Connector, a roadway designed to connect El Dorado County to Interstate 5 south of Elk Grove. Sacramento County Supervisor and Connector JPA board member Don Nottoli and Caltrans District 3 Director Jody Jones both applauded local officials’ commitment to the interchange project, which will serve as the east end of the 35-mile connector.
Phase two of the Silva Valley interchange project, currently in the planning phase with construction at least a decade out, calls for reconfigured onramps to accommodate the area’s projected growth.