First Street on-ramp to Highway 29

The city of Napa and Caltrans are preparing to shut down an on-ramp connecting westbound First Street to northbound Highway 29, near the site of a triple roundabout that will connect the freeway and First with Second Street and California Boulevard.

Updated at 3:46 p.m. Wednesday Giving the public less than a day’s notice, Caltrans announced Tuesday afternoon that it would close the on-ramp from First Street onto northbound Highway 29 on Wednesday morning, with the closure lasting through the end of August.

The closure, part of the triple-roundabout project, would affect a stretch of First Street that carries 18,000 vehicles daily, the city said.

Only the closure didn’t happen as scheduled. Motorists got at least a one-day reprieve when a pavement striping machine broke down, a work crew member said at the scene. Now the closure is likely on Thursday.

Earlier Wednesday, city senior civil engineer John Ferons said work crews were to install concrete K-rails to close off the freeway entrance at First Street. Signs are to detour drivers onto northbound California Boulevard and then west to Lincoln Avenue, which also connects to the freeway.

Caltrans is also planning to reduce southbound California Boulevard at Second Street from two lanes to one, with the lane closure staying in effect into the early fall, according to Caltrans.

Both closures will accommodate work on one of three traffic roundabouts that will link Highway 29 with First and Second streets as well as California Boulevard. Construction on the three hubs, which will replace existing intersections and stoplights, is expected to continue into 2020.

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Earth-moving and the construction of a retaining wall require the closure of the on-ramp, Ferons said in an email Wednesday.

City, Napa County and Caltrans officials broke ground June 3 on the project, in which roundabouts will connect Highway 29 with First Street, First with California Boulevard and California with Second Street. Over the next year, motorists can expect temporary lane shifts and concrete barriers while construction progresses.

The road work is scheduled to be carried out in about eight stages, each of which may require different patterns of closures or lane shifts, according to Ferons, who described the First Street ramp closure as part of Stage 2A of the project.

When complete, the $11.4 million project will introduce a new traffic pattern that will reverse the one-way flow of First and Second streets, in which eastbound drivers leaving Highway 29 will follow First Street into downtown while Second Street channels traffic toward the highway or farther west into the Browns Valley area.

The city of Napa and Caltrans joined forces on the project after state transportation officials agreed to link Highway 29 with the roundabout trio instead of pursuing a traffic signal at the First Street exit. Napa public works officials have said a retooled street pattern also eliminates the need to replace the curving, narrow flyover carrying First Street over Highway 29 – a fix the city has estimated would require $40 million to $50 million.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.