Both sides of the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and the Orange County line will be shut down a week from Friday and remain closed the entire weekend.

The 55-hour closure will start at 10 p.m. July 16 and continue until 5 a.m. Monday, July 19.

Motorists — and residents along pockets of the Ortega — are advised to prepare well in advance because access to large segments of the 17-mile artery will be inaccessible, with very few exceptions, according to Caltrans.

Additional weekend closures are planned through August. The shutdowns are required to enable crews to complete excavation work, removing and replacing slabs without interruption, Caltrans officials said.

Earlier this week, complete overnight closures along the highway began, and those will continue through the summer, as long as the weather holds up, according to Caltrans.

The $49 million Ortega Widening Project got underway in February, and in late April, the contractor, Watsonville-based Granite Construction, initiated a series of modifications that required nighttime closures on the two-lane corridor.

Crews previously accommodated residents, who were able to come and go through the construction zone with pilot vehicles guiding them. That changed on the night of July 6, when small segments of the highway, less than a quarter mile in length, were taken out of service completely, preventing even guided access in and out of the construction zone.

The current overnight closure area is between the Candy Store and Monte Vista Street.

According to Caltrans spokeswoman Kim Cherry, the Ortega Oaks RV Park & Campground has been 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 is not available as a connector between Riverside and Orange counties. The closures are generally 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.

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 are in effect, meaning only a single lane is available, generally between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Travel delays can be significant, according to Caltrans.

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, Caltrans said.

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.

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