BRENTWOOD (KPIX 5) — A new project to ease traffic on busy Highway 4 in the East Bay broke ground Tuesday, marking the start of work that could spell relief for many commuters.

Highway 4 is known for having some of the Bay Area’s worst-rush hour traffic.

State and local leaders celebrated the project with a ceremonial ground breaking that was years in the making

Part of the project will build a new interchange on Highway 4, replacing the signal at Balfour Road with a bridge crossing as well as looping on-ramps and a diagonal off ramp.

Currently, the signal light at Balfour creates a long string of brake lights as car after car comes to a halt on the highway.

“Traffic can be backed up for miles, and I am in it!” exclaimed 11TH District Assemblyman Jim Frazier. “Just like the Sand Creek interchange, people can continue to move without stopping at signalized intersections”

The interchange is all part of the $1.3 billion Highway 4 improvement project geared to reducing the congestion in east Contra Costa County, where the population has boomed and overloaded the freeway.

“East County has been facing a headache for many, many years, and this is one of the final legs to alleviate that issue,” said Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor.

The Highway 4 corridor around Brentwood has been named one of the worst commutes in the nation…

“As it is you take surface street sometimes. A lot of people do it. I’m sure you guys do it too, said commuter Don Stanley. Freeway is backed up, what do you? You jump off and go on some boulevard somewhere.”

The primary funding for the $42 million interchange comes from Measure J.

“It is heavily paid for by local sales tax measures. Local sales tax measures have done a lot for improving transportation in and around this region as well as throughout California,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “This is another step in trying to improve this corridor for commuters as well as folks who live around the region.”

Crews will work nights from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Construction is expected to be completed by 2019.