I-5 Widening Gears Up in South OC

The project is expected to reduce congestion in coming years. But the construction will cause some closures and snarls in the meantime.

The 5 Freeway between Mission Viejo and the San Diego County line will be getting a little wider in coming years.

In preparation for the widening and interchange improvement project -- $275-million for the stretch between San Juan Creek and Avenida Pico alone -- the Orange County Transportation Authority and Caltrans have been designing and gathering public input.

The latest part of the construction starts in February with work on the Ortega Highway interchange in San Juan Capistrano. Caltrans spokeswoman Gloria Roberts said there will be intermittent closures during the two-year project, mostly between midnight and 7 a.m.

The Ortega interchange project will cause four extended closures, each lasting three to six weeks: The first will affect the north 5 onramp; the second will be the south 5 onramp; the third will close Ortega between the south 5 onramp and Del Obispo; and the last will shut down Ortega between El Camino Real and Del Obispo.

"But those aren't for a long time," Roberts said.

Locals have been bracing for a traffic mess at the Ortega ramps, and Caltrans officials held a public meeting Thursday to discuss the project.

Meanwhile, work at the San Juan Creek interchange is set to wrap up in March, Roberts said, and the Camino De Estrella interchange work should finish in May. The Estrella project may cause intermittent nighttime closures until spring, she said.

Set to begin in October are carpool lane additions in both directions of the 5, along with soundwalls and retaining walls from San Juan Creek Road to Avenida Vista Hermosa. That project is expected to finish in 2015. Overlapping in schedule will be the next section of work -- continuing lanes and walls from Vista Hermosa through Avenida Pico and revamping the Pico interchange, according to the OCTA website.

This part of the project will begin in 2014 and finish in 2017, according to current OCTA estimates.

The projects further out include adding a new general-purpose lane to the freeway from Laguna Niguel to north of Mission Viejo, and a carpool lane from El Toro Road to Alicia Parkway. That work isn't expected to commence until 2018.

There will be community open houses in February regarding this process. Those dates and locations are on the website. There will be a public hearing this summer.

From Mission Viejo to San Juan, OCTA is working to remove the double yellow lines along carpool lanes so vehicles can cross in and out of the lanes at any point. Some traffic studies have shown this setup to be safer, said OCTA's Laura Scheper.

Sue McCook January 11, 2013 at 03:51 AM
What happens when you reach the San Diego County line!!!?? Traffic will back up the same as usual....bottle neck. Traffic in San Juan is horrible now. In order to get to downtown San Juan you have to drive to Dana Point, get on the freeway, and exit on already congested off ramps.
rob h January 11, 2013 at 03:01 PM
Agree Sue. The county and our city is ruinning our area. If the city would allow the extension of just a few roads in our town it would ease much of the traffic issues. It's all abhout money. They will be turning our town into LA. Build more homes, widen more street, build more homes, another road project, build more homes, extend the 241, build more homes, more strip malls, etc. etc. Will never end.
mike January 11, 2013 at 04:39 PM
It is sad how for the past 10 years when they do construction in south county, they do not even attempt to adjust the lights to ease down on construction traffic. I must be missing something because it seems so stupid.
rob h January 11, 2013 at 04:57 PM
I agree Mike
george gregory January 11, 2013 at 05:12 PM
I believe the anti competition clause for the I-5 verses toll road was judged to be illegal. so now the political Crum bums promote the toll road thru incompetence and willingness to squander our lives by making us set in unnecessary traffic complete the I-5 widening all the way thru san clemente and beyond its our measure M moneys
rob h January 11, 2013 at 05:15 PM
Thanks George
Douglas Martin January 11, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Carpool lanes INCREASE congestion as people attempt to cut across 5 lanes of traffic to get to and from the carpool lane. Anybody who drives the 5 northbound knows that traffic slows between Crown Valley and Oso because carpoolers are cutting people off as they merge left at 40mph.
rob h January 11, 2013 at 06:30 PM
AGREE! Douglas. What makes it worse is when you have drivers in the car pool lanes going 65 and under and they just don't get it. They need to go with the flow of traffic or move over. This impedes traffic flow
MFriedrich January 11, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Oh so that's why so many cars have been beeping at me in the carpool lane! Just kidding. Totally know what you mean man. They are oblivious. Guess it's time to pull out my motorcycle and lane split like a mother to get anywhere.
rob h January 11, 2013 at 07:19 PM
george gregory January 11, 2013 at 07:19 PM
slower traffic to the right please , chp do something super bright head lights blind everyone and slows traffic , CHP do somthing
MFriedrich January 11, 2013 at 07:57 PM
It all starts with trucks and semis. We need to rip a page out of German traffic law. There semis must keep right at all times and they need to stay at legal speeds - 55 mph tops. If this means semi trucks you're going 40 mph in the right lane, too freaking bad. There are semi's on the 5 and 405 travelling at 75 and 80 mph in full bore traffic in the middle and left lanes. The laws of physics are not on anyone's side here.
rob h January 11, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Gopt that right. I also have an issue with the touring buses that are in the car pool lane going exactly 65. GET OUT, move to the right.


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