LAKE ELSINORE – Both sides of the Ortega (74) Highway between Lake Elsinore and the Orange County line will be shut down next weekend — for the second time this month — to facilitate work on the two-lane corridor.
The 55-hour closure will 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.
The highway will be closed to through traffic from Orange County to Lake Elsinore and vice versa, though pilot cars will be available to escort residents to and from designated places, Caltrans officials said.
Residents who live west of Tenaja Truck Trail, including those in the Ortega Oaks RV Park and the Candy Store, 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.
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 happened on Aug. 13-16, during the same hours. Caltrans planners said closures will occur every other weekend going forward, with further weekend shutdowns planned for Sept. 10-13 and Sept. 24-27.
Next weekend’s closure is necessary to enable crews to complete underground excavation on drainage systems and other road work without interruption, 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 nighttime closures on the corridor.
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 https://sr-74-ortega-highway-widening.constantcontactsites.com/.
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