“It’s a day 20 years in the making,” Gau said, welcoming the group. “It’s a way to keep the state’s economy moving forward.”
The group was gathered Monday morning to celebrate the end of the two-decade project of creating the interchange at South Bird Road and Highway 132 with a ribbon cutting.
The interchange, about four miles south of town, replaced a two-way stop with an overpass crossing with on and off ramps for traffic heading east and west on Highway 132.
Gau said safety concerns about an increase in the tractor-trailer traffic on the high-speed roadway had spurred planning of the interchange in the early 1990s as quarry companies set up in the Vernalis area near South Bird Road. Trucks turning right and left or crossing the highway became potential hazards.
A three-way conversation began among San Joaquin County, Caltrans and a group of quarry companies, Gau said, as they formulated a plan for the intersection. Construction of the interchange began in the summer of 2012 and took just over a year to complete.
Gau said it was a unique partnership among five quarry companies, which are normally competitors but joined forces to build the interchange.
The entire $10.8 million construction cost was funded by the five companies — Cemex, Granite Construction, Knife River Corp., Teichert Aggregates and West Coast Aggregates — which Gau collectively called “the producers.” It was the first time Gau could remember an interchange in San Joaquin County being built with private funding.
The quarry companies are taxing themselves on the material they mine to pay for the construction. Gau said any costs to Caltrans and San Joaquin County were also reimbursed.
Watching a steady stream of tractor-trailers driving on South Bird Road, Ken Baxter, Caltrans deputy district director, was pleased with the completed interchange. He said it would improve safety for drivers, along with helping the quarry operations and improving commerce.
“This is a wonderful example of a public-private partnership,” Baxter said. “I don’t think I have seen this many trucks passing by as I have in the past 30 minutes.”
Bob Elliott, chairman of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, said the 20 years it took to complete the project was a testament to determination.
“This interchange will help get the economy back on track by allowing aggregate to be delivered to the San Joaquin Valley and greater Bay Area,” Elliott said.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.