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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.

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La Pata Gap Closure Project Will Solicit Construction Bids

The Orange County Board of Supervisors recently authorized the county clerk to advertise the La Pata Gap Closure project for bids.  Bid opening will be October 23, 2013 and the terms of at least one of the grants requires the County to award the construction contract by December 11, 2013.

For those of you not familiar with the long-rumored, long-anticipated La Pata Gap Closure project, here is how the staff report describes it:

The La Pata Avenue/Camino Del Rio Extension Project (Project) will widen La Pata Avenue from three to five lanes from approximately 750 feet south of Ortega Highway in the unincorporated County area to the existing road terminus at the County’s Prima Deshecha Landfill (Landfill).  A new roadway consisting of four new travel lanes will be constructed from the existing roadway terminus at the Landfill to the intersection of Calle Saluda in the City of San Clemente (gap closure). Camino Del Rio will also be constructed as a four lane facility from its current terminus in the City of San Clemente to its future terminus at La Pata Avenue. The estimated total construction cost of the Project including construction management and contingency costs are approximately $92 million.

Below is a map of the project area:

La Pata Gap Closure Project Location Map (image courtesy of Orange County Board of Supervisors)

And now we will have a formal bid opened on the project.  Looks like this is going to happen.  It is interesting to note that the $92 million project is moving ahead in spite of an $18M funding shortfall.  OC Public Works is exploring a loan to cover the deficit, but even in the absence of financing, the project will continue.  According to the staff report: “If a loan is unsuccessful, the Project will be phased to complete the gap-closure section with the available funding and complete the remainder of the Project as future funding becomes available.”

Readers should note that Rancho Mission Viejo Company will be contributing $25M to the project as part of its obligations under the Ranch Plan Development Agreement, as well as granting an easement over a portion of Ranch property.  Rancho Mission Viejo is the largest single source of funds for the project, even moreso than the Measure M2 transportation funds available to the project.  All funding sources (and the unfunded portion) are listed in the table below:

Measure M2



Proposition 1B State Local
Partnership Program (SLPP)



Community Facilities District
2004-1/CMIA Funds Swap



Rancho Mission Viejo



Road Fund (115)



City of San Juan Capistrano -
Waterline Relocation



Orange County Waste and
Recycling (7.2% of the project)

$ 6,655,477








The project has an estimated three year timeline.  However, the project will be phased to construct the gap-closure section within the first two years, which will provide a functional connection between Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano/Rancho Mission Viejo and Calle Saluda in San Clemente.

For those of you interested in the gritty details of the project, below is the full status report on the different aspects of the La Pata Gap Closure, as presented to the Board of Supervisors (original source here):

Plans and Specifications – These are completed and are presented for your Board’s approval and authorization to advertise the Project for bids.

Environmental – Environmental Impact Report (EIR) No. 610 and Addendum #1, and Addendum #3 to EIR No. 589 are complete for the Project and satisfy the CEQA requirements.

Project Right-of-Way (ROW) – The City of San Clemente (SC) affirmed its ownership of ROW at its City Council meeting on June 4, 2013.  SC continues to work on securing additional ROW including ROW from the Talega Maintenance Corporation and its subsidiaries (Talega).  The Talega Board recently voted to support the conveyance to SC. Plans and specifications for the Camino Del Rio segment of the Project are complete. The Project being advertised includes this segment. However, the Project specifications include a provision to allow for the issuance of a separate Notice to Proceed (NTP) to the contractor for this Project segment, upon receipt of notice from SC that the ROW has been secured.  On May 14, 2013, your Board affirmed the County’s ownership of ROW through the Landfill.  ROW between the Landfill and Ortega Highway is being dedicated by Rancho Mission Viejo LLC (RMV) pursuant to the Ranch Plan approval on November 8, 2004.  ROW is also needed from the City of San Juan Capistrano (SJC) for land it recently acquired from RMV for an equestrian facility adjacent to Ortega Highway.  The documents for that transaction contained a provision requiring SJC to provide the necessary ROW for this Project to the County.  SJC and the County are finalizing the ROW documents to facilitate this transfer.  ROW is also needed from the Rancho San Juan Development, LLC.  OC Public Works is in the process of finalizing the documents for conveyance of all remaining ROW and recommends that your Board delegate authority to the OC Public Works Director or designee, to accept such interests for the ROW as described above.

Agreements – Several agreements with Project stakeholders are in process, and the stakeholders are cooperating with the County to execute these agreements.  SC will declare the section of the roadway within the City a County highway for the purpose of construction.  The agreement will also address construction phasing for La Pata Avenue and Camino Del Rio.  Agreements with utilities include San Diego Gas and Electric for relocation of transmission towers located in the future roadway; an agreement with Rancho San Juan Development, LLC for water quality basins; an agreement with Kinder Morgan Energy Partners for relocation of a gas pipeline; an agreement with SJC for relocation of a water line; and an agreement with OC Waste & Recycling for the relocation of a Santa Margarita Water District water line.  OC Public Works is in the process of finalizing these agreements and will present them to your Board prior to or concurrent with construction award of the Project.

Regulatory Permits – The Project will need a total of six regulatory permits from various regulatory permitting agencies.  These include permits from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Army Corps of Engineers.  OC Public Works is in the process of finalizing these permits and will present them to your Board prior to or concurrent with construction award of the Project.

Design Refinements – As previously indicated, the Plans and Specifications for the Project are complete. However, due to the complexity of the Project and the interest of stakeholders, work continues with stakeholders to refine the design plans.  Some refinements include improvements to the ingress/egress to the San Juan Riding Park; construction of additional retaining walls to facilitate completion of the La Pata Avenue component of the Project in case the ROW for Camino Del Rio is not obtained in a timely manner; and traffic management refinements to ensure uninterrupted access to the Landfill operation and during Project construction. OC Public Works will issue appropriate design change bulletin(s) to potential bidders should these issues be resolved during the bid process.

Construction Phasing – The construction of the Project is anticipated to be a three year period.  As discussed in the Financial Impact section, the Project implementation will be phased to construct the gap-closure section within the first two years of construction, which will provide a functional roadway connection from Ortega Highway to Calle Saluda.  The Project specifications and instructions to bidders includes provisions to limit the construction work to $40M for the first two years of construction with the goal of completing the gap-closure section of the Project before issuing a NTP for the other construction phases of the Project.

Compliance with CEQA – This project is a necessarily included element of the projects considered in Final EIR No. 610, approved for the La Pata Avenue Gap Closure/Camino Del Rio Extension Project, certified by the Board of Supervisors on May 24, 2011, which adequately addressed the effects of the proposed project.  No substantial changes have been made in the project, no substantial changes in the circumstances under which the project is being undertaken and no new information of substantial importance to the project which was not known or could not have been known when the Final EIR No. 610 was certified has become known, therefore no further environmental review is required.

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