Drivers from far East Contra Costa County will soon have a straight shot to and from the Antioch Bridge.
A $31.8 million construction bid was awarded last week by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to build freeway connector ramps from Highway 160 to Highway 4 as it heads into Oakley and Brentwood.
Livermore-based RGW Construction will start on the long-awaited project in the next month or two, with an estimated completion date of mid-2015, local transportation officials said last week.
"It will definitely be an upgrade, and alleviate a lot of confusion for lost drivers," said Kevin Romick, the vice chairman of the authority's board of directors.
Romick, an Oakley councilman, also said the new ramps will improve traffic flow on Antioch and Oakley streets.
Since the new portion of Highway 4 opened in 2008, westbound drivers headed toward Sacramento County have had to cut through Oakley side streets or drive two miles west to the Hillcrest Avenue exit, exit the freeway and return on the highway in the other direction to cross the Antioch Bridge. Drivers wanting to head east off the bridge face the same problem.
Originally, the plan was to build the bypass first and add the overpass when funding became available. However, developer fees for road projects dwindled because of the housing market collapse, which forced local officials to seek other funding sources.
The overpass is funded by money left from a seismic retrofit of the bridge, officials said. Bridge tolls paid for that retrofit.
County transportation officials convinced their Bay Area counterparts on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2011 that putting leftover toll money toward adding the connector ramps would improve traffic flow, officials said.
"It's exciting because originally we had heard it would be 10 years or more out, but then because of (the transportation authority's) work, there was newfound money to pay for it," Romick said.
The connector ramps are a key piece to the overall work to widen Highway 4 and increase mobility for drivers in the region, said Ross Chittenden, the transportation authority's deputy executive director.
"It's the cherry on top of the shake," Romick said.
The project, which includes contingency funds, should cost about $48 million and spur construction jobs, Chittenden said.
Officials say that though they have heard from drivers asking when work would start on the ramps, it's not been at the same level as for other projects on the Highway 4 corridor.
"There has not been a big, loud shout to get it done, but it's been more of a steady drumbeat," Chittenden said.
Construction will not interrupt traffic, except for a few nighttime closures, for the roughly 85-foot-high bridge that will cross over Highway 4, said Jack Hall, a transportation authority engineer.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.