Both sides of the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and the Orange County line will be shut down for the entire weekend to facilitate work on the two-lane corridor.
The 55-hour closure started at 9 p.m. Friday and is slated to continue until 4 a.m. Monday, according to Caltrans.
Motorists — and residents along pockets of the Ortega — were advised to prepare well in advance because access to large segments of the 17-mile artery will be inaccessible, with few exceptions.
“There will be no access from Orange County to Lake Elsinore and vice-versa,” according to a Caltrans District 8 statement. “It means no through traffic, only escorted residents to and from the OC side.”
Motorists trying to access the route west of Monte Vista Street on the Riverside County side will be turned around, while pilot vehicles will be available to guide residents with identification trying to enter from the area around San Juan Capistrano. However, Caltrans noted that even with guided access, delays will generally run up to two hours.
Additional weekend closures are planned July 30-Aug. 2, Aug. 13-16 and Aug. 27-30, during the same hours. The shutdowns are necessary to enable crews to complete excavation work, removing and replacing slabs without interruption, officials said.
Last 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 began in February. In late April, the contractor, Watsonville-based Granite Construction, initiated a series of modifications that required nighttime closures on the corridor.
Caltrans spokeswoman Kim 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 is turned around by the California Highway Patrol.
Motorists were advised to utilize Interstates 5 and 15, as well as state Routes 55 and 91, 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. 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.