Here's how long you can expect delays on Interstate 5 near Black Butte

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
The Black Butte Overhead Bridge Replacement Project on Interstate 5 is causing delays during peak traffic times. Mt. Shasta – nearly devoid of snow in July of 2021 – as well as Black Butte can be seen rising in the background.

Construction on Interstate 5 is causing delays of a half hour or more at certain times of the day between Weed and Mount Shasta. Southbound traffic in the Black Butte area is expected to be reduced to a single lane through October, said Caltrans District 2 resident engineer Nicole Mallory.

Some impatient motorists are seeking alternate routes, which take them on roads that rarely see heavy traffic, like College Avenue and North Old Stage Road.

"We're looking at ways to improve traffic flow," said Mallory, "but right now, it's a planned one lane."

Driving through the Black Butte Overhead Bridge Replacement Project on Interstate 5 early in the morning is a piece of cake. Delays are happening during peak traffic times while the freeway is reduced to one lane soutbound.

What's the I-5 construction at Black Butte all about?

Caltrans District 2 said crews with contractor JF Shea are replacing the southbound bridge as part of the Black Butte Overhead Bridge Replacement Project.

Lanes will also be reduced, at times, on the northbound side while construction takes place over the next few months.

The new bridge has already been built to the east of the old one, Mallory explained. Work is now being done to realign southbound I-5 and tie new pavement into the existing roadway. Once traffic has been transitioned to the new bridge, there will be a longterm lane closure and the Truck Village Drive offramp will be closed for up to 30 days while it is replaced.

The old bridge and roadway will then be demolished, Mallory said.

Traffic has increased on once quiet roads. Speeding? Maybe not

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Kevin Stensether said he's fielded several calls from residents in the North Old Stage and College Avenue areas who complained of speeding and an increase in traffic on what are usually quiet streets. He, himself, has been helping patrol the area, Stensether said.

"We're out there with radar, sitting in fixed areas and driving it up and down," said Stensether, although he hasn't seen as much speeding as one might expect.

"The increase in traffic can give the impression that there's speeding happening, but we haven't seen excessive speed," Stensether said. "Of course, people see us and slow down. ... We are sensitive to the issue and we are more than willing to write citations if people are speeding."

Stensether said he did clock someone traveling 48 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone, but he and other officers don't generally write citations for such violations since they're difficult to defend in court. 

"We would have to prove, first of all, that they were going over 40, and then we'd have to prove, in that moment – with dry pavement and no pedestrians or bikes around – that the speed was unsafe. We are not going to win that in court," Stensether said.

Stensether added that there have been some minor rear end collisions on I-5 near the construction site where cars merge, due to people driving too fast and not paying attention.

When is the best time to travel and not hit delays?

Mallory said the biggest traffic backups on I-5 are happening between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Caltrans asks motorists to avoid traveling during these peak times, if possible.

Caltrans urges people not to look for alternative routes.

Stensether suggested that residents be aware of the increase in traffic, which can include semi trucks, and use caution when crossing the street to access their mailbox, for example. He also said residents should allow extra time to reach their destination since they may encounter more traffic than normal.

He also asked those riding their bikes or walking on North Old Stage and College Avenue to be extra cautious when there's increased traffic in the area.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.