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Napa County's $54 million Soscol Junction interchange has groundbreaking

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Dignitaries with golden shovels scooped up small amounts of dirt to kick off the $54 million Soscol Junction construction project at the entrance to Napa Valley.

That’s only a tiny preview of what’s to come. Plenty of dirt will be flying over the next couple of years as workers transform the area where Highway 29, Highway 221 and Soscol Ferry Road converge.

They’ll turn a signalized intersection into an interchange. A free-flowing Highway 29 will go above the other roads on an overpass. Traffic getting on and off the highway will be controlled by roundabouts.

On Wednesday, Caltrans, the Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA) and various local, regional and state officials celebrated the project-to-come with a groundbreaking ceremony.

“It’s been long-awaited and much-needed,” said Napa City Councilmember Liz Alessio, who is the incoming chairperson of the NVTA Board of Directors.

During bad rush-hours, drivers might have to wait for two or more traffic light signal cycles to get through the intersection. Southbound traffic backs up onto the Butler Bridge.

“Wine-making and the hospitality industries have grown in Napa by leaps and bounds,” said Sean Nozzari, Caltrans Bay Area deputy district director. “And of course, so has traffic at this junction of many roads coming together.”

Speakers during the ceremony recalled that the project has been pursued for about 20 years.

By 2015, Caltrans and the NVTA had settled on building a flyover linking Highway 221 with Highway 29. But then transportation leaders had second thoughts about this old-school traffic solution.

Critics said a towering flyover would be an unworthy gateway to Napa Valley. Bicycle advocates said it would be dangerous to bike. That led to the emergence of the double-roundabout option, with the roundabouts not on Highway 29 itself.

Nozarri said a traditional, auto-centric approach would not work at Soscol Junction. The flyover would have curtailed bicycle and pedestrian activity.

“That’s not the way Caltrans does work these days,” he told the several dozen people gathered for the ceremony on a field near the intersection.

Ghilotti Construction Co. will build the new Soscol Junction. The real work beyond that golden shovel dirt-turning is to begin on July 11. Work is to finish in 2025, though project manager Tim Salles of Ghilotti said the project could finish ahead of schedule.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, state Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry had representatives speak at the ceremony. Thompson, D-St. Helena, sent word that traffic relief is finally on the way.

"Now it's time to finish the job," he said. "Let's get working."

You can reach Barry Eberling at 707-256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com

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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.

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