Work Begins on a Passel of Projects on I-5 in the San Fernando Valley
First up: HOV lanes between SR-170 and SR-118. Coming soon: New interchanges, elevated railroad tracks, a direct HOV connector, and much, much more!
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Almost everyone has a favorite southern California freeway or highway. Some people love the ocean views of Pacific Coast Highway. Others prefer the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway. And nature lovers can’t seem to get enough of Angeles Crest Highway.
But the Golden State Freeway (I-5) gets no love, what with its platoons of semis and behemoth recreational vehicles trailing jet skis. Despite the lack of affection, I-5 is California’s workhorse freeway, the road that does the heavy lifting. It provides an invaluable north-south link that runs from Mexico to Canada, helps power the economic engine of the state, and transports the things you use every – from the breakfast cereal you wake up with to the bed you sleep in at night.
Against this backdrop, it comes as no surprise that District 7 (with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements to I-5 in the San Fernando Valley between the Ventura Freeway (SR-134) and the Ronald Reagan Freeway (SR-118). Over the next five years, carpool lanes will be built. Interchanges modified. Railroad tracks relocated. Make no mistake: we’re talking about a pile of projects, several of which are funded in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Why so much attention to this stretch of I-5? This section of the freeway is particularly important because it connects major employment centers in Santa Clarita and the San Fernando Valley with the greater Los Angeles area. About a quarter million people travel this part of I-5 every day – and traffic is increasing as the population swells. If you’re one of those quarter million people, you’re looking forward to the congestion relief these projects will provide.
The first of the San Fernando Valley I-5 corridor improvement projects began construction last month. The project is building a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction along I-5 between the Hollywood Freeway (SR-170) and SR-118, a total of 6.8 lane miles (3.4 miles in each direction). It’s also widening four undercrossings and reconstructing the mixed-flow connector to add a direct HOV connector between I-5 HOV lanes and SR-170 HOV lanes. Additionally, damaged sections of pavement will be repaired.
“This project will alleviate congestion, encourage carpooling, improve air quality and provide a smoother ride for motorists,” said Project Manager Mumbie Fredson-Cole at a community meeting held last month in Burbank. “It’s also moving us one step closer to completing the HOV system in District 7. Soon, motorists will be able to travel from SR-134 all the way to Palmdale in the HOV lane.”
The cost of the project is $140.2 million, with $31.2 million provided by ARRA. Flatiron is the contractor on the project, which is expected to wrap up in summer 2015.
Other San Fernando Valley I-5 improvement projects scheduled to begin this year include projects that will construct HOV lanes between SR-170 and Buena Vista Street and between Magnolia Boulevard and SR-134 in Burbank.
But wait! There’s more! Next year, construction will begin on projects that will build HOV lanes from Buena Vista Street to Empire Avenue, elevate the railroad tracks at Buena Vista Street, reconstruct the Burbank Boulevard overcrossing and interchange, and build a new full freeway interchange at Empire Avenue. Here’s how awesome this will be: There will be a direct freeway connection from I-5 to the Burbank Empire Center, home of fine big-box retailers. So, one minute you’re on the freeway, and the next minute you’re in Target buying paper towels – no more clogging up surface streets.
All of the I-5 San Fernando Valley improvement projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2016. At that time, the freeway – with its new HOV lanes, interchanges, soundwalls and rejuvenated pavement – will be poised to handle the predicted increase in traffic caused by population growth. And although the freeway may never be a scenic route attracting throngs of sightseers, the improvements District 7 is undertaking will serve only to reinforce I-5’s role as the backbone of California's freeway system.