SJC City Council to discuss Ortega widening from Calle Entradero to La Pata/Antonio

Residents say highway construction project would lead to increased traffic.

The Orange County Register

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – The City Council today will discuss hiring an environmental expert to review Caltrans’ plans for the widening of Ortega Highway, after concerns from residents that the project will lead to more traffic congestion.

The widening to four lanes is planned from Calle Entradero to the eastern city limits at La Pata.

A number of residents have spoken against the widening, claiming it would bring more traffic to the city. A petition opposing the project was given to city officials with 275 signatures in October.

Caltrans is expected to release its latest Ortega proposal in April. The agency has decided that the project does not merit a full environmental impact report, city staff said.

The council will decide whether to hire an expert to review Caltrans’ environmental determinations to make sure they are in compliance with state requirements. The work would cost an estimated $40,000, staff said.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 32400 Paseo Adelanto. The full agenda is available at

Contact the writer: 949-454-7329 or

Story from LA Ortega Highway commuters wonder if pain will outweigh gain

Ortega Highway commuters wonder if pain will outweigh gain

Drivers are in for delays whether they stick it out during the 3-year widening that will close lanes or take alternate routes.
By David Reyes, Times Staff Writer
February 23, 2007
Ortega drivers: Gas up

It long ago earned the nickname "Ricochet Alley," a narrow, three-mile stretch of tight curves through the Santa Ana Mountains.

Now, the winding section of Ortega Highway — where 12 people have been killed in traffic accidents in the last decade — will be widened and perhaps tamed.

Caltrans’ $40-million project on California 74 will widen lanes and add shoulders, guardrails and turnouts along one of the few connectors between Orange and Riverside counties. Contractors will cut into the mountainside to eliminate blind curves that put drivers at risk, said Pam Gorniak, a Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

"The purpose of the project is to reduce accidents and save lives," Gorniak said.

But it won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be convenient.

Ortega Highway is a narrow, 30-mile road that offers majestic views and considerable risk.

There are blind curves, plunging canyon walls and many motorcyclists hugging the center lanes.

But the alternatives for commuters shuttling between the two counties are massively inconvenient. Drivers can head to the congested 91 Freeway or drive south around Camp Pendleton. Commuters figure that either alternative adds hours to their drive.

For the full story: click here (I would post the entire story, but I’m getting more traffic now and I don’t want to tempt legal fate.  Please go to the publishers web site as I’m sure their advertisers pay them well.)

Travel Time Reports, Bad For Us?

A question has been raised by a repeat guest to this BLOG: Do you think the reporting of travel times will cause more commuters to come back to Ortega, since the commute was so great last night and this morning?

It is a valid question and I have thought about this a great deal today. I really enjoy having a smooth commute, as I’m sure you all do. I believe that regardless of what I report in this BLOG that the traffic will self adjust as fellow Ortega commuters figure out what works best for them. I only hope to help this process along for those who visit this site and to keep people informed.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have understanding employers who are considering allowing some telecommuting to happen. This could very well be something great to happen from this construction project. I encourage employers to allow this on a trial basis and I encourage employees to show your employers how much this can benefit the companies. Do great work from home! Be more productive! Remember, you saved 2-3 hours out of every day you didn’t have to jump in the car/truck or on the bike and drive. You saved money on fuel. You didn’t get frustrated with other drivers. Have a great attitude, not only while working from home, but on the days you still have to be at your job site.

Doing these things will not only help your employer, they will also help you as any improvement in attitude is a great thing! The word will spread and perhaps we all can finally do some part time Telecommuting.

Regards to all,


Highway work to last three years

LAKE ELSINORE —- Portions of Ortega Highway, the heavily used winding, mountain road linking Orange and Riverside, will be closed at night and partially closed during the day for the next three years while crews widen a stretch of the two-lane road.

Construction of the improvements to a 3.3-mile section of the highway from the San Juan Creek Bridge in Orange County that extends east to the Riverside County line, is expected to start Tuesday.

The purpose of the $40 million project, according to state Department of Transportation officials, is to make the highway safer. Along with widening the road’s lanes from 10 feet to 12 feet, crews will be adding 4-foot shoulders on each side, removing protruding rock walls that limit sight lines and adding turnout areas.

"Our purpose in building this project is to save lives," Pam Gorniak, an Orange County spokeswoman for Caltrans, said Friday.

Construction is expected to add to the already choked traffic conditions on the highway, which Caltrans officials say is used by more than 10,000 motorists a day. As part of their outreach efforts, department officials are planning to host an open house on the project at 5 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Cultural Center in Lake Elsinore, 183 N. Main St.

Gorniak said that Caltrans is encouraging commuters to use alternate routes into Orange County, such as Highway 91 to the north or Highways 76 and 78 to the south and then Interstate 5.

One Lake Elsinore City Council member voiced his skepticism this week when the council was presented with details on the project.

"It just seems like a lot of pain for very little gain," Councilman Thomas Buckley said.

From 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. every night until the project is completed, the portion of the highway being improved will be completely shut down. During the rest of the time, the highway will be reduced to one lane in half-mile stretches while crews continue to work.

Cars going in either direction will be let onto the one lane in 10-minute intervals. In the morning, according to Caltrans officials, priority will be given to westbound traffic. In the evening priority will be given to eastbound motorists.

Bob Cashman, who lives in Wildomar and takes the Ortega to his engineering job in Irvine, anticipates his commute is probably going to get longer. Already, he tries to get to the highway before 5 a.m., he said, and will have to get up even earlier if he is to take Highway 91.

He’s going to take a wait-and-see approach before altering his commute, he said.

"I think the first week or two, we’ll know how much of a hassle this is," Cashman said.

Louisa Dixon, another commuter who lives in Lake Elsinore, figures that her commute times are going to get longer as well. She’s sure there are going to be moments, she says, when she gets frustrated with the conditions on the road.

But in the end, she said, it shouldn’t be anything to get all worked up over.

"That’s just the way it is," Dixon said. "I’m going to have to get past it. Hopefully, three years down the road, it’s going to be a significant improvement."

Contact staff writer Jose Carvajal at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2624, or

Ortega Highway Improvements

– What: Open house to discuss the project

– When: 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 26

– Where: Lake Elsinore Cultural Center, 183 N. Main St.

– Information: Call Caltrans at (800) 724-0353

Images of Ortega Highway (SR-74) Construction

Hi all Ortega Highway Commuters, I am planning to post my travel times as well as images of the Ortega Hwy (SR-74) construction project.  I will also post links to any news stories I find.

I’ve already started with travel times, see below…
You can chat with me on occasion when I’m online during the day from my chat page, or leave a comment just to have your footprint here.

If you comment, try to some details about your route like mileage, start and end times, and any observations you think others might be interested in.

Josh from Murietta chatted with me today and told me he tried  the southern route on SR-76 today because Ortega took him over 2 hours last night.

Good luck with your drive all.  3 years is a long time to deal with an extra 40 minutes round trip each day.  I take an average of 2 weeks off each year which leaves 250 days of commuting, times 40 minutes, equals 166 additional hours per year.  Multiply that by 3 years and you get 20.75  24 hour days of additional commute for the construction duration.

Regards, Keith

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