End of Highway 99 construction in sight for Merced? ‘We’re extremely anxious for this project to be completed’

On March 28, 2024 by Victor A. Patton

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After years of navigating narrow lanes, off-ramp closures and nightmare traffic jams on Highway 99, Merced-area drivers may soon be able to breathe a long-awaited sigh of relief – as the end of road construction is said to be in sight.

Officials at the California Department of Transportation say construction on the $65 million Merced 99 Pavement Rehabilitation Project is expected to wrap up in May. 

It’s no secret the project has been a huge headache for drivers passing through the Merced area since spring 2022, when the project broke ground.

It was originally supposed to be completed by early last year. But the project faced delays caused by 2023’s massive storms that flooded parts of Merced County, plus COVID-related disruptions that made it more difficult to secure building materials.  

Brian Hooker, spokesperson for Caltrans District 10, which includes Merced County, told The Merced FOCUS in an email that despite a few weather-related delays during the past winter, the project remains on target for completion. 

“We will have some project milestones/updates occurring over the next few weeks and will be alerting the public as those occur,” Hooker said. 

The project includes the resurfacing and restoration of Highway 99 through the City of Merced from roughly 0.5 miles south of Childs Avenue to 0.8 miles south of the Franklin Road Overcrossing.

Highway 99 construction tops resident complaints

Merced Mayor Matthew Serratto told The Merced FOCUS construction on Highway 99 is probably the top complaint he’s received from residents in recent years.

Serratto said there were times when hardly a day passed where he didn’t receive a complaint from a resident about it. 

The mayor said he’s even seen T-shirts lambasting the treacherous stretch of road. “We’re extremely anxious for this project to be completed,” Serratto said. 

Serratto said he, other elected leaders and the Merced County Association of Governments have also made their safety concerns known to Caltrans.

“None of us have been shy about it,” Serratto said. “They responded to our concerns, and in doing so they came up with some ways to help expedite the construction a little bit.”

Once the Merced 99 Pavement Rehabilitation Project is completed, it will be the latest in a series of projects that began since 2000. 

In the last year, Caltrans has completed a $33.9 million median widening project near Livingston, a $2.65 million guardrail project between the Sultana Drive overpass and west Atwater Boulevard overpass near Atwater, and an $84 million pavement rehabilitation project 0.4 miles south of the Buhach Overcrossing to about 0.8 miles north of the West Atwater Overhead.

California Highway Patrol said they had noticed an increase in traffic collisions after major construction began on the highway.

Each day, Merced County’s stretch of Highway 99 is used by about 62,000 motorists, including 12,400 truckers, according to Caltrans

Victor A. Patton is editor in chief of The Merced FOCUS, a nonprofit newsroom covering the San Joaquin Valley. 

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