Both sides of the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and the Orange County line will be shut down again Saturday evening and remain closed through the weekend — for the third time in a month — to facilitate work on the two-lane corridor.
The 55-hour closure began at 9 p.m. Friday and is scheduled to continue until 4 a.m. Monday, according to Caltrans.
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 few exceptions.
“There will be no access from OC to Lake Elsinore and vice-versa,” Caltrans District 8 spokeswoman Kim Cherry said. “There is no thru traffic, only escorted residents to and from designated places.”
Residents who live west of Tenaja Truck Trail, including those in the Ortega Oaks RV Park, cannot access the road from Riverside County and will have to utilize alternate routes to enter from the Orange County side, while anyone who lives east of Tenaja Truck Trail cannot enter from OC and will instead have to use alternates to reach their properties from Lake Elsinore, according to Caltrans.
All motorists trying to transit the highway to go from one county to the next will be turned around. However, pilot vehicles will be available to guide residents with identification attempting to enter the construction zone.
Caltrans officials noted that even with guided access, delays will generally run up to two hours.
Two weekend closures occurred in July, and an additional closure is planned Aug. 27-30, during the same hours. Caltrans planners said further weekend shutdowns will be necessary, but a schedule has not been ironed out.
The closures are necessary to enable crews to complete excavation work, removing and replacing slabs without interruption, according to Caltrans.
Last month, complete overnight closures along the highway began, and are scheduled continue through the summer, as long as the weather holds up.
The $49 million Ortega Widening Project began in February, and in late April, the contractor, Watsonville-based Granite Construction, initiated a series of modifications that required nighttime closures on the corridor.
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 are 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, 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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