Both sides of the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and the Orange County line will be shut down Friday evening and remain closed through the weekend — for the fourth time this summer — to facilitate work on the two-lane corridor.
The 55-hour closure will begin at 9 p.m. Friday and 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 most of the 17-mile artery will be inaccessible, with few exceptions, officials said.
“There is no through traffic, only escorted residents to and from designated places,” Caltrans District 8 spokeswoman Kim Cherry said.
Residents who live west of Tenaja Truck Trail, including those in the Ortega Oaks RV Park, cannot access the road from Orange County and will have to go back into the county to utilize alternate routes to enter from the Riverside County side.
Anyone who lives east of Tenaja Truck Trail cannot travel directly to Orange County via Highway 74 and will instead have to use alternates, including Interstates 5 and 15, as well as state Routes 55 and 91 — by way of Riverside County.
All motorists trying to transit the Ortega 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. Cherry noted that even with guided access, delays will generally run up to two hours.
A weekend closure occurred on Aug. 13-16 and was preceded by two weekend closures in July. Additional closures are planned Sept. 10-13 and Sept. 24-27.
The closures are necessary to enable crews to complete excavation work, removing and replacing slabs, grading, milling and clearing roadside vegetation, officials said.
In July, complete weeknight closures along the highway began, and those will continue as long as the weather holds up, according to Caltrans.
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 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.
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 widening 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.