Improving I-5 For Your Drive: A Construction Update
By Maria Raptis and Kelly Markham
The I-5 Corridor in District 7 is in the midst of a major makeover. Caltrans and it regional transportation partners — the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) — are investing over $3 billion in 17 improvement projects through 2018. The 11 projects between SR-134 and the Kern County line are known as I-5 North, and the six projects between I-605 and the Orange County line as I-5 South. We’re almost halfway through this eight-year effort, which means it’s time for a mid-makeover update.
Work began on the 11 I-5 North projects in 2010. Four projects have been completed, one (a paving project) will begin in 2015, and another – the Empire Project – is expected to begin in late spring.
The Empire Project: The $355 million Empire Project is the largest of the I-5 North projects. It’s a series of improvements to I-5 in Burbank between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista Street, including high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, grade separations that will elevate the railroad tracks, realignment and reconstruction of the Burbank Boulevard bridge, and construction of a new diamond interchange at Empire Avenue. The start of the project has been delayed due to utility issues, but the construction team expects work to begin in May.
SR-134 to Magnolia Boulevard: Just south of the Empire Project is a $153 million HOV project between SR-134 and Magnolia Boulevard. Crews are currently working on concrete barriers and a mechanically stabilized earth wall near Flower Street. A long-term closure of the southbound Western Avenue off-ramp is expected to end this summer, and steel girders for bridge widening will be delivered in the next six months. The project is scheduled to wrap up in 2016.
Buena Vista Street to SR-170: Just north of the Empire Project is another HOV project between Buena Vista Street and SR-170. Most of the major work has been completed on this $69 million project. Crews are now focusing on finishing the soundwalls. The project will end this summer and will be open to traffic as soon as the HOV project to the north is complete. Together, the two projects will provide motorists with an uninterrupted eight-mile stretch of new carpool lanes.
SR-170 to SR-118: The northern segment of the eight-mile stretch of carpool lanes is a project that is constructing a direct HOV connector at the I-5/SR-170 interchange, as well as HOV lanes between SR-170 and SR-118. Crews are currently working on the HOV connector, which is on track for completion this summer. The $140 million project is expected to open to traffic at the end of the year.
Truck Lanes: The $72 million truck lanes project is also scheduled to complete this year. The project is constructing a southbound truck lane between Pico Canyon Road/Lyons Avenue and SR-14 in the southbound direction, and between SR-14 and Gavin Canyon in the northbound direction. Crews are currently working on mainline concrete paving, retaining walls, and electrical and drainage work. The median bridge widening of the Gavin Canyon underpass is currently in its final stages, and most of the bridge widening activities at Calgrove Boulevard are also done. The project is about 77% complete.
Vistal Del Lago Road to Kern County: The northernmost project – a paving project between Vista Del Lago Road and the Kern County line – will also wrap up this year. The project, which has been in winter suspension since November, will begin again in late March. Most of the remaining work to be done is on southbound I-5. A traffic split or bypass lane will be implemented to keep three lanes open to traffic. The project will be completed this fall – about a year ahead of schedule.
The Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) South Corridor Improvement Projects are engulfed in a variety of simultaneous construction activities including pile driving, soundwall construction, bridge abutments, falsework installation, lane transitions, frontage road realignments and ramp construction.
This work to widen the freeway to add one carpool lane and one general purpose lane in each direction is hard to avoid while traveling on I-5 from Los Angeles to Orange County. The $1.6 billion 6.7 mile corridor project will add a seamless carpool lane on I-5 from San Juan Capistrano to the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605).
The six projects that make up the I-5 South Corridor from the Los Angeles/Orange County line to I-605 are easily identified by their location at Valley View Ave, Alondra Blvd, Carmenita Rd, Rosecrans Ave, Imperial Highway, and Florence Ave within the cities of La Mirada, Santa Fe Springs, Norwalk and Downey. Four of the six projects are currently in construction; the fifth project at Florence Ave, will begin this summer and the final segment, at Valley View Ave, is scheduled to begin early next year.
Two bridges, the Alondra Blvd Bridge and the Shoemaker Ave Bridge (Rosecrans Project) were demolished in 2013. The new structures at Alondra Blvd and Shoemaker Ave are nearly complete and their reopening this spring and summer are among the first milestones for the I-5 South Corridor Improvement Projects.
Several I-5 ramps have closed permanently, including the northbound ramps at Alondra Blvd, Carmenita Rd, Imperial Highway and Adoree St. Others, like the southbound I-5 off-ramp at Pioneer/Imperial Highway and Carmenita Rd, have closed temporarily. Temporary on-ramps have been constructed at Alondra Blvd and at Carmenita Rd to help manage traffic flow and freeway access in the area. Four of the six corridor projects will begin work on the mainline this year at Alondra, Carmenita, Rosecrans and Imperial Highway.
Here’s a quick update by project on the I-5 South Corridor:
Carmenita Road Interchange Project
The project is all about pile driving. Approximately 2,500 steel piles will be driven into the ground as part of the foundation structural support for the new Carmenita Road Bridge. The existing two-lane steel structure will be replaced with a 10-lane concrete structure. Most recently, the southbound I-5 off-ramp at Carmenita Rd was transitioned so that crews could begin falsework installation on the south side of the bridge. The northbound I-5 on-ramp at Carmenita Rd will close for 18 months from July 2014 through December 2015. By April 2015, it's estimated that traffic will be switched onto the new Carmenita Bridge and demolition of the existing bridge will begin. Carmenita Road and the bridge will remain open for traffic throughout the project.
Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project
Alondra Boulevard, between Freeway Dr and Marquardt Ave, that includes the bridge, has been fully closed in both directions for about one year. Today, motorists can see attractive bridge abutments, soundwalls, and retaining walls. Falsework placement is on-going on both ends of the new bridge structure. The 57-year-old bridge is being reconstructed as a wider and longer structure to accommodate a wider freeway and will be widened from four lanes to six lanes. Both the Alondra Blvd. Bridge and Alondra Boulevard are expected to open by late summer 2014.
Rosecrans, Shoemaker and Bloomfield Bridges Project
The project broke ground in February 2013 and the first order of business was to demolish and reconstruct the Shoemaker Avenue overcrossing. Today, the new Shoemaker Avenue Bridge will reopen to local traffic in late April 2014. This summer, motorists can expect the northbound I-5 lanes to transition eastward between Carmenita Road to Rosecrans Avenue and by July, the southbound I-5 on-ramp and off-ramp at Rosecrans Avenue will be closed. Similar demolition and reconstruction is in progress for the Rosecrans Ave Bridge, the Bloomfield Ave Bridge, the Silverbow Ave pedestrian overcrossing.
Imperial Highway, Pioneer Blvd Bridges Project
This project began in May 2013 and has progressed very rapidly. One of its large structures to reconstruct is a new southbound I-5 flyover off-ramp at Imperial Highway. The old off-ramp closed in August, 2013, and upon completion, scheduled for this summer, the ramp will extend the new Pioneer/Imperial Highway off-ramp nearly 1,200 feet from the widened freeway, and it will flyover Pioneer Blvd. to put traffic onto Imperial Highway. Motorists will exit the new off-ramp using one lane, but the ramp will widen to three lanes at Imperial Highway. Also scheduled for this summer is a new southbound I-5 on-ramp at Norwalk Boulevard and the northbound I-5 lanes will transition at Imperial Highway.
For more information on I-5 projects, visit I-5info.com.