Focus on a Better Commute and Enhanced Safety

When the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and Caltrans broke ground in June 2019 on the I-5 freeway expansion project, it was a step toward improving traffic flow and safety on 6.5 miles of one of Southern California’s most heavily traveled sections of freeway.

Goodbye to gridlock

Anyone who drives in Southern California knows the congested reality of the roadways. “California carries some of the highest volume of traffic in the entire nation and I-5 is one of the interstates that carry the highest volume of traffic,” says Caltrans spokesperson Mark Bischoff.

Nearly 360,000 vehicles travel daily on I-5 between the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road (SR-73) and El Toro Road in the Saddleback Valley region. That volume is expected to increase by 25%, with an estimated 450,000 motorists a day using the stretch by the mid-2040s. This is why agency officials have said the project is necessary now.

“I’m looking forward to it bringing much-needed congestion relief to all those who travel on the I-5 through South County,” said La Habra Councilman Tim Shaw, the chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors.

By the numbers

Located near Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest and San Juan Capistrano, the $580 million freeway improvement project was approved by Orange County voters in November 2006.

Funding for the project comes from Measure M, the half-cent sales tax increase (approved in 1990 and renewed in 2006) that is earmarked for transportation improvements. Some of the other funding comes from a mix of state and federal grants.

The project includes added lanes, interchange and street improvements. These include adding:

  • A second carpool lane in each direction from El Toro Road to Alicia Parkway.
  • A general-purpose lane in each direction between Alicia and Avery parkways.
  • New and re-establish auxiliary (merge) lanes, improving merging and diverging.
  • New overhead signage and lighting.
  • New sound and retaining walls.

And modifications:

  • Reconstruct two interchanges, multiple on- and off-ramps and widening 14 bridges.
  • Widening La Paz Road in Mission Viejo and Laguna Hills, and Avery Parkway in Mission Viejo and Laguna Niguel.
  • Widening the overpass at Los Aliso Boulevard in Lake Forest and Laguna Hills.
  • Reconstructing La Paz Road, which runs below the freeway, to add a bike lane in each direction for pedestrian and cyclist safety.
  • Convert carpool lanes throughout project limits for continuous access to facilitate entering and exiting throughout the corridor.
  • Road surface repaving and restriping within project limits.

A full list of improvements, updates and the status of completion are listed on the Caltrans website. The project is scheduled to be complete in 2025.