.

Ortega Highway Construction: 'We Know It’s Going To Be Challenging'

Commuters who travel the Ortega Highway to Orange County: Beware!

From the gasps and groans, one would have thought the gathering of 250 or so people Thursday night was watching a horror movie.

Really, they were just getting the details on what life will be like when a Caltrans contractor starts rebuilding the Ortega Highway interchange at the I-5 starting next month.

Caltrans hosted its first of three public meetings at San Juan Capistrano's St. Margaret’s Episcopal School Thursday, and when the announcement was made that the bridge over the freeway will be cut in size by half during much of the construction phase, the displeasure was audible.

“We know it’s going to be challenging,” said David Richardson, a spokesman for Caltrans who ran the meeting. However, “not doing this project is not an option,” he said of the $86.2 million plan that has been in the works since 2000.

  • Hear more about the project in an informal conversation with Caltrans Saturday, either from 7-8:30 a.m. at Historic Town Center Park or 9-10:30 a.m. at both in San Juan Capistrano; Caltrans officials say there are no community forums scheduled in Riverside County for local commuters who travel the Ortega to Orange County.

The interchange overhaul will increase the size, height and capacity of the Ortega bridge over the freeway, create a cloverleaf onramp for northbound traffic and reroute westbound drivers from Ortega onto Del Obispo Street.

The two-year construction project will feature “intermittent” night closures of the north- and southbound on- and off-ramps, as well as alternating, several-week, full closures of the ramps and even sections of Ortega Highway west of the freeway, Richardson said. (See photo.)

“It’s a large project. ... It’s impossible to say it won’t have an impact,” Richardson said.

He figures motorists will find ways around the closures and back-ups, such as taking Rancho Viejo Road to Junipero Serra Road or La Novia Avenue to San Juan Creek Road. 

Residents who live along Ortega, San Juan Creek Road and Rancho Viejo Road had many concerns about the detours.

“It’s jammed now. How is it going to be after you close Ortega,” said Ray Griffith.

Jim Elder agreed. He lives off San Juan Creek Road in senior housing next to the golf course, and it’s already a challenge to turn onto the main road. He asked for a traffic signal near his complex.

“If somebody gets clobbered, it’s going to be too late,” Elder said.

“I know we’re already screwed,” said Richard Wordes to laughs. Wordes said new homes at Rancho Mission Viejo may make the new interchange undersized in no time once all the homes come online.

Richardson said the project is prompted in part by development plans east of San Juan Capistrano.

“We need to provide congestion relief. We’re going to have a great new bridge,” he said.

As part of the construction, the Arby's on Del Obiispo Street is the lastest – and last – San Juan Capistrano business Caltrans is taking over to expand the Ortega Highway interchange.

Earlier this month, Denny's closed shop, with several gas stations and the Jack in the Box before that.

Becky Honkington January 15, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Does anyone know how we will be able to get to the 5 from Ortega Hwy during the closure?
Roberto January 15, 2013 at 04:31 PM
"Caltrans officials say there are no community forums scheduled in Riverside County for local commuters who travel the Ortega to Orange County." REPLY: This reminds me of more of their taxation without representation. Only difference right now I think is they have not created a toll road so us Riverside Commuters can pay for it but I'm sure it's coming. Cal Trans & the OCTA manage our transportation taxes.
SA January 15, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Caltrans is a complete joke. I wonder if they will be drinking while on the job, would not matter as Brown the Clown would stick up for them…
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 15, 2013 at 08:03 PM
Hi Becky, When Ortega is shut down, you can travel north on Rancho Viejo Road to catch the freeway at Junipero Serra if you're going north or turn left (south) on La Novia to cross over to San Juan Creek Road and catch the freeway there to go south.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 15, 2013 at 08:05 PM
When I asked Caltrans about a similar meeting on your side of the Ortega, the spokesman said city officials in your area didn't think it was necessary.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 15, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Technically, the workers doing the construction are contracted, not employees of the state. Caltrans manages the project, but the actual workers are from a company called Flat Iron.
Becky Honkington January 15, 2013 at 09:12 PM
Thank you Penny. I appreciate the response.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 15, 2013 at 09:18 PM
My pleasure! I'd like to say we SJC locals have our own secret ways of getting around town so we can accommodate you better, but really, we don 't. SJC is an old town. Coming from Lake Elsinore, the routes listed are your best bet, and we'll be right there with you. (You can go west of the freeway and take Camino Capistrano north or south, but that will be far worse, I'm afraid, Better to avoid the bridge over the freeway at all costs. It will only be half its current size.
Theotis January 15, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Are the small buses still going to run from Lake elsinore ?
Becky Honkington January 15, 2013 at 09:46 PM
There are small buses? I have never seen one.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 15, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Who runs them? The Caltrans website for the Ortega project is here: ortega.dot.ca.gov
SPaM January 15, 2013 at 10:25 PM
Riverside County is where the forums should have been held since we are the majority traveling Ortega. Therefore we will be the most impacted. Have they done the demographics?
Becky Honkington January 15, 2013 at 10:27 PM
SPaM 2:25 pm on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 Riverside County is where the forums should have been held since we are the majority traveling Ortega. Therefore we will be the most impacted. Have they done the demographics? REPLY: Penny mentioned that our city officials said it was not necessary. That really chaps my hide.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 15, 2013 at 10:29 PM
Caltrans did say they would be reaching out to you. I'm just not sure how.
SPaM January 15, 2013 at 10:29 PM
Everyone and their brother will be trying J Serra. Depending on which direction you want to go, you can turn right at Antonio and travel to Oso, Crown Valley or take the toll road up to the 133 and get to the 5 that way. If you want to go south, you can go the ways previously cited going a bit out of your way and then go back south on the 5
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 15, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Those are good options, although Crown Valley can drive me crazy too (but it IS wider, that's for sure).
Theotis January 15, 2013 at 11:12 PM
You ride the small bus still from lake elsinore,right?
Roberto January 16, 2013 at 05:55 PM
Cal trans will be hearing from our representatives very soon.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something