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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

The writings of Don Juan Ortega on the Rancho Ortega Blog are the personal views of the author. This blog is not authored by nor does it have any affiliation whatsoever with any other person, place or entity using the name "Rancho Ortega" (or any similar name).

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A Summary of the I-5/Avenida Pico Project and a Glimpse at Future South County Transportation Improvement Projects

While San Juan Capistrano and surrounding communities prepare for “Carmageddon” in the form of the Ortega/I-5 interchange project, Caltrans and OCTA have several other major South County transportation improvement projects in the works.  While some are substantial projects in their own right, the good news is that none of them pose the same risk of economic disruption as the Ortega interchange project.  What’s more, we can all agree that these projects are necessary.  Nevertheless, residents and commuters would do well to inform themselves in advance about these upcoming projects.

Perhaps the most substantial south County improvement project (after Ortega) is the I-5 Avenida Pico to San Juan Creek Road Improvement Project (which we will call the I-5/Pico Project for short).   The I-5/Pico Project will enhance traffic flow and remove congestion on this heavily traveled segment of Interstate 5.  Currently, nearly 9,000 vehicles travel this route, each way, in a peak commuter hour.  That number is expected to rise to nearly 12,000 vehicles per hour by 2040.  Extending from Avenida Pico in San Clemente through Dana Point to San Juan Creek Road in San Juan Capistrano, this $275 million project will:

  • Add a continuous access carpool lane in both directions on I-5 between Avenida Pico and San Juan Creek Road,
  • Improve the dangerous lack of visibility southbound at the “bend”,
  • New bicycle lanes will be added to Avenida Pico in both directions beneath the freeway,
  • Build soundwalls to mitigate the impact of freeway noise where necessary, and
  • Reconstruct the Avenida Pico interchange, including widening the northbound on-ramp to three lanes and adding dual left-turn lanes to both on-ramps.

The image below shows the proposed new Avenida Pico interchange:

Image of Proposed New I-5/Avenida Pico Interchange

Construction on the new carpool lanes will begin later this year, and will be completed in three segments:

Segment 1: Vista Hermosa to Pacific Coast Highway will begin in late 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Segment 2: PCH to San Juan Creek Road will also begin in late 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Segment 3: Avenida Pico to Vista Hermosa will begin in late 2015 and is scheduled for completion in 2017.

The final phase of the project, rebuilding the Pico interchange, is expected to begin in 2014 and is expected to be finished in early 2017.  The project will likely require condemnation of the Shell service station and the Burger Stop restaurant on Avenida Pico.

OCTA’s web page for South County projects contains more information on the I-5/Pico Project and is available here.

But wait, there’s more!

The graphic below (an edited version of an OCTA graphic) shows the location and current schedules of all of the currently proposed transportation projects planned for South County (and note the anticipated construction start date for the La Pata Gap closure project — August 2013!).

Future Transportation Projects in South Orange County (source: OCTA)

While no one likes to live through a construction project, we can all agree that traffic in South County will be much better following completion of these important projects.

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