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Lisa Bartlett

By OC Board Supervisor Lisa Bartlett

If you live in South Orange County and travel along Interstate 5, navigating your way to and from the freeway these days can be challenging with traffic volume returning to pre-pandemic levels and ongoing construction of the I-5 Freeway Widening Project.

As a member of the OCTA Board, I strongly advocated for the much-needed widening project to keep South County moving, but how do we minimize the challenging effects that often accompany traffic-improvement projects?

I reached out to our OCTA partners for an update on the project and to share some helpful tips.

OCTA, Caltrans District 12 and the cities of Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Laguna Hills and Laguna Niguel continue working together on the multiyear project.

Approved by nearly 70% of Orange County voters, the $580 million project spans 6.5 miles and is being constructed in three segments. The overall project is more than one-third finished, with Segment 1 from SR-73 to Oso Parkway and Segment 2 from Oso Parkway to Alicia Parkway each 50% complete.

Looking ahead to 2022, the following improvements will move forward:

  • Paving new general-purpose lanes from Avery Parkway to Alicia Parkway;
  • Reconstructing interchanges at Avery Parkway and La Paz Road;
  • Widening bridges at Oso Creek, Aliso Creek, Los Alisos Boulevard and El Toro Road;
  • Extending the second carpool lane from Alicia Parkway to El Toro Road;
  • Constructing new auxiliary lanes at seven key locations; and
  • Adding striping, signage and signals, as well as other operational improvements.

When completed, these improvements will increase freeway capacity and enhance ramp, roadway and interchange operations from Mission Viejo to Laguna Woods. Staying informed and driving smart will help you navigate construction and minimize delay. Throughout construction:

  • All preexisting I-5 general-purpose lanes are open;
  • Street and signal lights are monitored, optimized and synchronized;
  • No carpool or general-purpose lanes are closed or reduced during daytime/peak hours;
  • Ramp and lane closures occur almost exclusively between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.;
  • Weekly alerts can be emailed to motorists or accessed on the web; and
  • Full freeway closures are limited to overnight hours and advertised in advance. Weekend ramp closures may only occur for pre-approved reasons.

Below is a recap of what’s happening and in store at various interchanges:

AVERY PARKWAY

  • Remains open during construction
  • Reconstruction will double interchange capacity
  • Increasing from 5 to 10 lanes, including dedicated turn and thru lanes
  • New bicycle lanes, sidewalks and signals
  • Stage 1 of bridge widening completed in November 2021
  • Ramp and lane closures take place at night
  • Freeway lanes, ramps and street open during daytime and peak hours
  • Select 55-hour weekend closures permitted to maximize safety and productivity

CROWN VALLEY PARKWAY

  • Interchange remains open during construction
  • Ongoing access to shopping destinations, medical centers and residential areas
  • Interchange will be reconstructed and realigned to accommodate new freeway lanes
  • Ramp lanes will feature dedicated right- and left-turn lanes
  • Major retaining walls being constructed in northbound direction
  • I-5 underpass at Crown Valley widened and retaining walls constructed
  • Auxiliary lanes between Oso and Crown Valley will be constructed
  • Ramp closures may occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.


OSO PARKWAY

  • Interchange remains open during construction
  • Ongoing access to golf courses, residential areas, etc.
  • Interchange will be reconstructed and realigned
  • Oso Creek bridge being widened—northbound and southbound
  • New auxiliary lanes will be constructed from Oso Parkway
  • Ramp closures may occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

LA PAZ ROAD

  • Open throughout construction
  • Ongoing access to local schools, shops and residential neighborhoods
  • Interchange being realigned and reconstructed
  • On- and off-ramp will be improved, including newly designed NB off-ramp
  • Vertical clearance will be increased
  • New bicycle lanes and sidewalks will be added
  • Preexisting columns will be removed, eliminating barrier and facilitating lane changes
  • Ramp closures may occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Fifty-five-hour weekend closures may occur on select occasions to maximize safety and productivity

ALICIA PARKWAY

  • Interchange remains open throughout construction
  • Ongoing access to shopping, commercial and residential destinations
  • Interchange being realigned and reconstructed
  • New ramp lanes will feature dedicated turn lanes
  • I-5 Freeway underpass will be widened at Alicia Parkway
  • Ramp closures may occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

EL TORO ROAD

  • Interchange remains open throughout construction
  • Ongoing access to local retail, civic and residential destinations
  • I-5 bridge over El Toro Road will be widened—northbound and southbound
  • Interchange closures may occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Fifty-five-hour, weekend interchange closures may occur to maximize safety on select occasions

Tips to help I-5 motorists drive smarter

  1. Sign up for Weekly Construction Alerts at https://bit.ly/3oGFNAO
  2. Avoid delays and fines by driving 55 MPH in a construction zone
  3. Get construction notices on FB and Instagram feed @oci5southcounty
  4. If driving after 10 p.m., avoid overnight ramp and lane closures by opting for detours Contact the I-5 team with specific questions at 949.614.0202 or via email: i5southcounty@octa.net

I hope you find this information helpful, and I will continue to keep you updated via my weekly newsletter, which you can sign up for at supbartlett.com and on social media.

Lisa Bartlett sits on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, representing the 5th District. She was reelected in 2018.

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