Freeway construction
I-5 freeway in San Juan Capistrano will be severely impacted with several lanes closed for next few weeks. Photo courtesy of Caltrans

Traffic flowing south out of Orange County will almost certainly be stacked up much of the next three weeks, as significant lane closures are scheduled for weekdays on southbound Interstate 5 at San Juan Capistrano.

Two of the five southbound lanes are to be barricaded off from 5 a.m. through 1 p.m. on Monday, a pattern that is to continue weekdays for the next three weeks, Caltrans officials said.

Lanes will be closed so work crews can safely operate huge pile-drivers “which is being done to create a stable foundation for freeway widening,” Caltrans officials said in their notice.

Caltrans spokesman Joel Zlotnik told City News Service lane closures will take about 90 minutes to set up every morning. “The pile driving won’t start until about 6:30 each morning.”

Nonetheless, the loud banging will affect people in the Capistrano Beach area, near Interstate 5 at Pacific Coast Highway, from 6:30 a.m. on, Zlotnik said. “The alternative here was to do this at night, and we feel that is totally unacceptable to the residents,” he said.

The work is part of a $230 million project is to construct a carpool lane and add other capacity on the 5 Freeway between San Juan Creek Road and Avenida Pico in San Clemente, “an area that is notorious for weekend traffic jams and weekday rush-hour bottlenecks,” Caltrans said.

Construction crews must complete noisy, shake-inducing pile driving before Feb. 15, to avoid disturbing the birds and bats that nest in the area each spring, Caltrans officials said. San Juan Capistrano is world famous for swallows that nest during the spring season in freeway underpasses and caves near the historic mission there.

“Because of the significant noise and vibrations caused by pile driving, the work will be done during the day to limit the impact to the residents who live in the nearby community,” Caltrans officials said.

The pile driving will occur close to Camino Capistrano at Stonehill Drive, just north of the Pacific Coast Highway interchange at Capistrano Beach.

There is no freeway alternative other than Interstate 15 through Corona and Temecula. Surface streets near the project, like Crown Valley Parkway, may be affected by overflow traffic.

The Avenida Pico interchange is also being reconfigured as part of the project. When it is finished, carpool lanes will extend from San Clemente about 100 miles north, to Santa Clarita, via the 5 in southern Orange County, the San Diego (405) Freeway and Golden State section of the 5 Freeway.

— City News Service

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