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Napa County is ready to build a short Devlin Road segment in the airport industrial area that will help traffic avoid a long detour through Solano County when nearby Highway 29 shuts down.

“It’s a bypass and traffic reliever for Highway 29,” county Public Works Director Steven Lederer said.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 26 made certain the $5.9 million construction phase can go forward by filling in a $1.2 million funding gap. Work is to begin in March and be finished in February 2020.

“This is a big moment,” Board chairman Ryan Gregory said at the start of the hearing.

Napa County will build 1,100 feet of road with a bridge over Fagan Creek between Airpark Road and Tower Road. This two-tenths-of-a-mile of pavement will connect two existing segments of the Devlin Road.

Meanwhile, American Canyon plans to start building a half-mile-plus segment this summer or in 2020 that will push Devlin Road south to Green Island Road. The two projects together are the missing links needed for Devlin Road to function as a 3.5-mile-long Highway 29 reliever route.

Presently, if Highway 29 shuts down south of South Kelly Road because of an accident or other reason, people must go through Solano County on Highway 12 and Interstate 80 to travel between the city of Napa and American Canyon. That’s a 14-mile detour.

Even a malfunctioning traffic light can cause problems. On Feb. 4, the Highway 29 signal at South Kelly Road was blinking red during the morning commute, backing up northbound Highway 29 traffic through American Canyon to Vallejo. There was no convenient alternate route.

Once the two missing Devlin Road links are completed, Highway 29 travelers will be able to detour onto Green Island Road, then take Devlin Road to reach Highway 29 at Soscol Junction near the Grapecrusher statue.

Lederer said the planned Devlin Road links will allow trucks to travel among three business parks without getting on Highway 29, as they now must do. That will help keep some truck traffic off the highway.

Supervisor Belia Ramos lives in American Canyon. She has been stuck in the occasional traffic messes on Highway 29 near South Kelly Road that make for a long commute to the city of Napa.

“As I’ve said many times, this is a safety concern, to be able to move people from the south county in and around that area where we don’t have a whole lot of relief roads,” Ramos said.

Napa County officials had been hoping bids for the project would come in under the engineer’s estimate of $3.5 million to help fill in a funding gap. Instead, the low base bid by Santa Rosa-based Ghilotti Construction Co. was $4.3 million.

“We’re all seeing the impact of perhaps an overheated economy,” Lederer said. “Very busy contractors who just don’t have to do low bids the way they did four or five years ago.”

The total construction phase budget of $5.9 million includes the Ghilotti contract as well as construction management, inspection, environmental monitoring and post-construction environmental monitoring costs. When the pre-construction expenses already budgeted for are added, the project will cost more than $8 million.

Industrial area developer traffic impact fees are to pay for most of the project. Supervisors agreed to lend the project $1.2 million from the county’s accumulated capital outlay fund so work can go ahead this year, with the fund to be paid back to developer fees in future years.

Lederer advised against delaying the project. For one thing, he said, the environmental permits expire this year. Seeking new approvals could also bring new demands. Construction costs will likely escalate in coming years.

“We believe it’s really time to do this project,” he said.

The project includes building a 92-foot-long bridge over Fagan Creek. The county will build two travel lanes and a center two-way turning lane. A sidewalk will be on the west side and the Napa Valley Vine Trail on the east side.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.