New Highway 101 construction project in SF good timing for drivers, bad for residents stuck at home amid COVID-19 pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Very loud equipment fired up at 5:00a.m. Friday morning. Sheltering-in-place means less traffic on the roads so Caltrans pounced on the opportunity and moved a huge San Francisco project up from its scheduled July date. But the sheltering-at-home order also means people are working from home and can hear the equipment all day long.

"This morning I am trying to have conversations with students. I am a therapist for San Francisco Unified School District. So it is just a little disruptive," said Kim Quinteros in front of her Bernal Heights home Friday morning.

But she and her husband actually noticed the light first, as crews prepared Thursday night for the big project.

"They had giant lights on, so our room was really lit up and then they were flashing at some point so I was startled by the flashing lights," Quinteros said, explaining that she did not sleep well.

Caltrans crews are demolishing the 70-year-old bridge deck on Highway 101 in San Francisco at Alemany Circle. Drivers on Northbound Highway 101 going into San Francisco will now be diverted onto Interstate 280. The back-up on Highway 101 was minimal Friday morning now that traffic is so light. The stop light at Cesar Chavez, though, had a long line of vehicles. That was the first exit for drivers where they could re-route after missing their usual 101 drive into the city.

RELATED: Delays expected as Highway 101 construction project in San Francisco starts early due to shelter-in-place

"This project was supposed to happen in July. We have been planning it for a few years really, so we have been working with the city of San Francisco prepping what these detours are going to be. They've been changing because we have accelerated everything but we have tried to keep everyone informed and the signage is out there," said Caltrans spokesperson Bart Ney.

Caltrans says the crews are using a saw to cut the deck to try and cut down on the noise.

RELATED: Coronavirus project: Caltrans expected to start on $37 million highway project in SF this month instead of summer

"There's some jack hammering going on right now, but we are trying to minimize that because jack hammering is a little bit louder. We are trying to respect the neighborhood as much as we can. The saw-cutting is a little bit quieter of an operation, little bit cleaner," Ney said.

Residents say they will try to drown out the noise.

"It's okay. I have other distractions the TV or music in the background," said Chewy Phan, who lives in Bernal Heights.

As far as timing, now or July, the neighborhood recognizes the pros and the cons.

"I think it is a good time to do it. There are less cars, less traveling. If we were out traveling it would cause more delays, more traffic," Phan said.

"I mean it has to be done. It just feels very inconvenient right now, but when is a good time? Maybe summer when we are on vacation- oh wait- when we're not on vacation," said Quinteros, laughing as she remembered sheltering-in-place and travel restrictions because of the pandemic.

The work is expected to take 10 days. Once they finish this phase, they expect to shut down the southbound side of Highway 101 in San Francisco.

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