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Merced's Treacherous 'Tunnel Lane' Removed from Northbound Highway 99
the_merced_focus
By The Merced Focus
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 3, 2024

The $65 million Merced 99 Pavement Rehabilitation Project is almost complete, marked by the removal of the notorious "tunnel lane" on northbound Highway 99 near downtown Merced. (CVJC)

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As of Thursday, the infamous “tunnel lane” on northbound Highway 99 passing through the area near downtown Merced is no more.

Victor Patton

The Merced Focus

Crews on Wednesday evening took away the concrete barriers that narrowed the road.

That section of roadway had a notorious reputation among commuters, causing drivers who aren’t even religious to say a few prayers before passing through.

The removal of the northbound tunnel lane means the $65 million Merced 99 Pavement Rehabilitation Project is almost over. At the beginning of April, Caltrans removed the tunnel lane on the southbound side of the highway.

The project included the resurfacing and restoration of Highway 99 through the City of Merced from roughly 0.5 miles south of Childs Avenue to 0.8 miles south of the Franklin Road Overcrossing.

The Merced FOCUS reached out to Brian Hooker, spokesperson for Caltrans District 10, who confirmed the project is nearing completion.

“There will still be some electrical, signage, striping, and guardrail work occurring over the next few weeks to finish up the project, but Caltrans aims to have the bulk of the work on the project done by Memorial Day,” Hooker wrote in an email.

Drivers Say Project Was Dangerous

The Highway 99 project was a frequent target of complaints by Merced-area drivers after it broke ground in spring 2022.

Many drivers said the section of the highway was extremely dangerous, and California Highway Patrol also acknowledged the number of traffic collisions increased after construction began.

Drivers were further upset after the project, which was supposed to be completed in early 2023, was delayed until May 2024.

Caltrans officials said the delays were due to 2023’s massive storms, plus COVID-related disruptions that impacted securing building materials.

Each day, Merced County’s stretch of Highway 99 is used by about 62,000 motorists, including 12,400 truckers, according to Caltrans.

Merced 99 Pavement Rehabilitation Project (Google Maps)

About the Author

Victor Patton is editor-in-chief of The Merced FOCUS, a nonprofit newsroom covering the San Joaquin Valley.

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