Nightly travel on the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and Orange County will be open for the remainder of this week and through the holiday weekend, and the weekendlong closure planned next week won’t happen, officials said Thursday.
According to Caltrans, it and the contractor working on the two-lane corridor — Watsonville-based Granite Construction — decided to forgo further closures Thursday night and Friday night, leaving the 17-mile artery unobstructed up to and through the Labor Day weekend.
The scheduled 55-hourlong closure for the weekend of Sept. 10-13 was also dropped because “the contractor (said) there wasn’t enough operations to substantiate a 55-hour closure for that weekend,” according to Caltrans District 8 spokeswoman Kimberly Cherry.
It would have been the fifth full weekend closure since early July. Instead, the two-day, three-night shutdown will be moved to Sept. 24-27.
Cherry said nightly closures will resume Tuesday night.
“As a reminder, there will be no through traffic allowed during these hours,” she said. “All motorists will be turned around at 10 p.m., and alternate routes must be utilized to get to your destinations.”
The nighttime closures are generally lifted by 5 a.m. Alternate routes include Interstates 5 and 15, as well as state Routes 55 and 91.
All motorists trying to transit the Ortega to go from one county to the next will be turned around. However, pilot vehicles are available to guide residents with identification attempting to enter the construction zone. Cherry noted that even with guided access, delays generally run up to two hours.
The closures are necessary to enable crews to complete excavation work, removing and replacing slabs, grading, milling and clearing roadside vegetation, officials said.
The complete weeknight closures along the corridor began in July, and those will continue as long as the weather holds up, according to Caltrans.
There is some daytime work Monday to Friday, 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 $49 million Ortega Widening Project began in February, and in late April, Granite Construction initiated a series of modifications that required the closures.
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.
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