Beginning this week, full closures are planned nightly along segments of the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and the Orange County line, and motorists are advised to plan on taking alternate routes.
“There will be a lot of excavation and a large ditch in the highway, so it cannot be used as a thru route,” Caltrans spokeswoman Kim Cherry told City News Service.
The $49 million Ortega Widening Project got underway in February, and in late April, the contractor, Watsonville-based Granite Construction, began a series of modifications that required nighttime closures on the roughly 17-mile two-lane corridor.
Crews have accommodated residents, who have been able to come and go through the construction zone with pilot vehicles guiding them. That will change Tuesday night, when small segments of the highway, likely less than a quarter-mile in length, will be taken out of service completely, preventing even guided access in and out of the construction zone.
The initial closure area will be between the Candy Store and Monte Vista Street.
According to Cherry, the Ortega Oaks RV Park & Campground will be impacted by the shutdown, but residents with homes on either side of the construction zone can still reach their properties using special access passes provided by Caltrans.
Cherry emphasized that during the nightly closures, the Ortega will not be available as a connector between Riverside and Orange counties. The closures are generally scheduled between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and anyone trying to transit the entire highway will be turned around by the California Highway Patrol.
The shutdowns will be Tuesday to Friday night this week, and then Monday night to Friday night after that, officials said. Motorists are advised to utilize state Route 91 and Interstate 15 as alternates.
There is some daytime work, and when crews are on the highway, one-way flagging operations will be in effect, meaning only a single lane is available, generally between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Travel delays could be significant, according to Caltrans.
Cherry said full 55-hour weekend closures along segments of the highway are slated to begin on July 16, but the schedules have not been set in stone, and further details are pending.
The widening project entails a multi-stage effort intended to enhance safety along the east-west corridor.
Most of the work is focused on expanding existing lanes to 12 feet, as well as expanding shoulders on both sides to four feet, according to Caltrans. Crews are additionally installing in-ground rumble strips for the highway centerline and shoulders.
The upgrades are concentrated within a roughly 10-mile stretch.
The project is slated for completion in early 2025.
More information is available at dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-8.