That’s because the California Department of Transportation and the Transportation Agency for Monterey County teamed up to convert a portion of U.S. Highway 101 from an expressway to a freeway by eliminating three at-grade intersections at Dunbarton Road, San Juan Road and Cole Road – and constructing a new one in the historically accident-prone area near the Red Barn.
“One of the biggest benefits of this project,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty in a Caltrans press release, “is that by eliminating the intersections, we’re making this section of 101 safer while at the same time upgrading it from an expressway to a freeway.”
Starting Monday, Caltrans and Granite Construction Co. temporarily closed access from northbound U.S. Highway 101 to the Red Barn and Ballantree Lane while they construct a northbound San Juan Road Interchange and a new frontage road that will connect it to Marilyn Lane.
Motorists can still visit the Red Barn during the construction, as southbound Highway 101 traffic can get access to the landmark by taking the San Juan Road exit. Northbound drivers can get access to the same local feature by turning left across Highway 101 onto Dunbarton Road and turning right on San Juan Road. The construction of the northbound U.S. Highway 101 San Juan Interchange off-ramp will be completed in early 2015, according to a Caltrans press release.
The goal behind the changes is to reduce traffic-related delays and accidents, to improve safety in a corridor densely populated with trucks and to eliminate left-turn conflicts by providing safer access for local businesses and residents. During a three-year study period between 2004 and 2007, most highway segments and intersections in the proposed project area had a higher average accident rate than in similar intersections across the state, according to an environmental assessment report prepared by Caltrans.
During peak traffic hours within the proposed project area of U.S. Route 101, the proportion of traffic consisting of trucks – which can cause more damage to small vehicles in the event of a crash – ranges from 16.5 percent to 18.4 percent, according to the same report. This area of Highway 101 sees more than 63,000 vehicles a day, according to the TAMC website.
“There’s a history of accidents in that area and everyone knows about that,” said Jim Shivers, a public information officer for Caltrans’ District 5, which includes the Monterey Peninsula area.
This project is part of the larger Prunedale Improvement Project, which began in early 2011 and is now 90 percent complete, according to the Caltrans website. One of the goals of the project is to remove left-turn access to Highway 101 and from the expressway to local roads by improving or adding interchanges and overcrossings so motorists don’t have to turn across lanes of high-speed traffic.