The $86.2 million Ortega Highway/I-5 Interchange project broke ground this week.
It is estimated it will take two-plus years to build the new interchange that's designed to alleviate traffic congestion where the Ortega Highway and 5 Freeway connect in San Juan Capistrano.
Officials acknowledge there will be headaches for motorists as construction moves forward, but Caltrans District 12 spokesman David Richardson promised Riverside County commuters will not be forced to take the 91 or 76 freeways as alternative routes.
"There will be detours in San Juan Capistrano that will allow motorists to get to the 5 Freeway," Richardson said.
Earlier this month, Caltrans held a community forum at Southwest Counties Animal Shelter in Wildomar. The purpose was to allow local residents to ask questions about the project and get concerns addressed.
"As soon as we told them they wouldn't have to take the 91, you could feel the collective sense of relief," he added.
Prior to the Feb. 11 forum, some local officials expressed frustration that Riverside County residents were not being provided with enough information about the interchange project.
"We had always intended to hold a workshop in Riverside County," Richardson said.
Lake Elsinore City Manager Grant Yates said he appreciated the outreach efforts by Caltrans.
"This project does impact the local residents who commute on the 74," he said. "We also look forward to future update meetings so local residents can ask questions and stay current on the status of the project."
Richardson said residents who want to stay apprised of closures due to construction can sign up for updates at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist12/ortega.html.
The Orange County side of the Ortega Highway has undergone major construction in recent years, and Richardson said the funding for improvements has largely been made possible through Measure M.
In 1990, OC voters first approved the measure that authorized a half cent sales tax for transportation improvements. In 2006, OC voters extended the tax for 30 more years.
According to Lake Elsinore Public Works Director Ken Seumalo, the breakdown on funding per Caltrans for the current $86 million I-5 interchange project includes:
Orange County $4,074,000
San Juan Capistrano $4,200,000