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By Allison Jarrell

After roughly two and a half years of construction, improvements to the Ortega Highway Interchange at Interstate 5 in San Juan Capistrano and are expected to finally open to traffic this Friday, Sept. 4.

The entire Ortega Highway bridge and on- and off-ramps will open to drivers around 5 a.m. Friday, according to Orange County Transportation Authority officials.

“The opening of the Ortega Highway Interchange will help ease traffic delays through the heavily traveled interchange, especially during the peak morning and evening commutes,” officials said in a Wednesday press release.

Work led by Caltrans and OCTA began in February 2013 to reconfigure and widen the roadways—an effort to alleviate traffic that has cost a total of $81.3 million. The project was funded by the State Transportation Improvement Program and Corridor Mobility Improvement Act, as well as the city of San Juan Capistrano and Measure M, the county’s half-cent transportation sales tax.

Improvements to the interchange include:

  • A reconstructed Ortega Highway bridge over the I-5 freeway, widened with additional turn lanes and through lanes
  • Widening of the existing north and south I-5 on- and off-ramps
  • Construction of a northbound loop on-ramp to the I-5 freeway
  • Realignment of Ortega Highway west of the I-5 interchange, curving the road into Del Obispo rather than continuing straight into Camino Capistrano
  • Realignment of Del Obispo street west of the interchange, eliminating the need for two intersections and streamlining it with one intersection and one traffic signal

“This has been a notorious traffic choke point for local drives and regional commuters and we’re happy to have partnered with Caltrans and San Juan Capistrano to deliver a project that will enhance safety and get people where they want to be more quickly,” said Jeff Lalloway, OCTA Chairman and Mayor Pro Tem of Irvine. “We know that construction hasn’t always been easy on residents and businesses and I want to thank them for their patience during the project.”

While major improvements are set to open early Friday, officials said timing is “subject to change depending upon weather and scheduling.”

“Crews will continue working to the east and west of the interchange for several weeks, which could periodically affect lanes and traffic flow,” the release stated.

For more information and updates, visit www.octa.net/ortega.

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