In 2008, the Sacramento County Department of Transportation (SacDOT) began work on transforming Hazel Avenue. That’s when the first phase kicked off at the Highway 50 interchange. The entire project would stretch from Highway 50 up to Madison Avenue. It was broken up into three separate phases, with Phase 1 running from the highway to Curragh Downs Drive. Constructing this project resulted in big changes to the look and feel of Hazel Avenue. The biggest change was widening the road from four to six lanes. Other upgrades include constructing new bicycle and pedestrian facilities, traffic signal modifications, and replacing the center turn lane with a raised/landscaped center median.
One of the biggest challenges in Phase 1 was adding extra lanes on the bridge over the American River. Before that could occur, engineers needed to complete the design, secure environmental permits, and acquire the land rights necessary for the project. The alignment for Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the project required the purchase and removal of over 40 houses, as well as relocation assistance for the impacted residents.
A year after the design was completed and three years after the Board of Supervisors gave its 2006 greenlight for the project, construction crews started work. The first phase officially finished in 2011, with a ribbon cutting at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery.
The second phase kicked off in 2010 with the important pre-construction work of design, environmental studies, and the acquisition of properties before construction began. The heavy lifting started in 2016, as construction began from Curragh Downs Drive to Sunset Avenue. This phase of the project included a partnership with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the telecom utilities to underground the overhead utility lines. SacDOT also partnered with the Fair Oaks Water District to replace their aging water distribution system within the project limits. Construction on Phase 2 was completed in 2018.
With two phases down, SacDOT turned its sights onto the homestretch of Phase 3. SacDOT began that construction from Sunset Avenue to Madison Avenue in November 2020. As Phase 3 started, residents and commuters began to see how this facelift was helping to rejuvenate Hazel Avenue. After the end of Phase 3, the 2008 vision for new sidewalks and bike lanes came to fruition. These new amenities provided alternative modes of transportation for those wanting to get out of their cars. The construction also brought new bus stops that allow traffic to flow while buses pull into a turn-out giving passengers a safer way to board and exit.
Along with the road construction, the skyline along Hazel Avenue was decluttered. This occurred because SacDOT collaborated with SMUD and the telecom utility companies to remove overhead wires that crisscrossed the area. SMUD and the other utility companies removed nearly 100 utility poles and placed their lines underground. With the undergrounding of utilities and the installation of continuous sidewalks and bike lanes, the public can safely stroll or ride bikes from Madison to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, and see birds instead of a power line overhead as they enjoy the outdoors.
It’s been 16 years since the Board of Supervisors approved the $70 million project, and as construction crews put the finishing touches to Hazel Avenue, SacDOT would like to thank everyone for their patience throughout the three phases of construction. Sacramento County hopes these improvements will benefit residents, businesses, and travelers for decades to come.