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Residents React to Ortega Interchange Plan with Gasps

Caltrans holds its first of three meetings this week.

From the gasps and groans, you would have thought the gathering of 250 or so people Thursday night was watching a horror movie.

Really, they were getting the details on what life will be like when a Caltrans contractor starts rebuilding the Ortega Highway interchange at the I-5, starting next month.

Caltrans hosted its first of three public meetings at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School Thursday, and when the announcement was made that the bridge over the freeway will be cut in size by half during much of the construction phase, the displeasure was audible.

“We know it’s going to be challenging,” said David Richardson, a spokesman for Caltrans who ran the meeting. However, “not doing this project is not an option,” he said of the $86.2 million plan that has been in the works since 2000.

  • Hear more about the project in an informal conversation with Caltrans Saturday, either from 7-8:30 a.m. at Historic Town Center Park or 9-10:30 a.m. at Cook Park

The interchange overhaul will increase the size, height and capacity of the Ortega bridge over the freeway, create a cloverleaf onramp for northbound traffic and reroute westbound drivers from Ortega onto Del Obispo Street.

The two-year construction project will feature “intermittent” night closures of the north- and southbound on- and off-rams, as well as alternating, several-week, full closures of the ramps and even sections of Ortega Highway west of the freeway, Richardson said. (See photo.)

“It’s a large project. The footprint is so small and your city is so vibrant with so many events, it’s impossible to say it won’t have an impact,” Richardson said.

He figures local residents will find ways around the closures and back-ups, such as taking Rancho Viejo Road to Junipero Serra Road or La Novia Avenue to San Juan Creek Road. 

Residents who live along Ortega, San Juan Creek Road and Rancho Viejo Road had many concerns about the detours.

“It’s jammed now. How is it going to be after you close Ortega,” said Ray Griffith.

Jim Elder agreed. He lives off San Juan Creek Road in senior housing next to the golf course, and it’s already a challenge to turn onto the main road. He asked for a traffic signal near his complex.

“If somebody gets clobbered, it’s going to be too late,” Elder said.

“I know we’re already screwed,” said Richard Wordes to laughs. Wordes said new homes at Rancho Mission Viejo may make the new interchange undersized in no time once all the homes come online.

Richardson said the project is prompted in part by development plans east of San Juan Capistrano.

“We need to provide congestion relief. We’re going to have a great new bridge,” he said.

rob h January 11, 2013 at 02:57 PM
What do you expect? Our town is going to turn into LA. We build more housing, a road project, we build more homes a road project, we build more homes, more road projects. Never ends. OH Not to mention the extension of the 241. The state, county and our citry is ruinning this area big time. It's all about the almighty buck. Thanks allot.
Scott H January 11, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Wwaahhhhhhb, Go live on a mountain. This is the greatest thing to ever happen to SJC. Should have happened 20 years ago. People moving here is what's ruining the city , not them trying to accommodate those people. " it's all about the almighty buck" ha ha... Dude you live in.OC. Wake up! If you want to help move to somewhere else.
rob h January 11, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Dude? I was born and raised here and it's people with your attitude and outlook that has destroyed much. RE: your comment. All these people wouldnt be moving here unless we built all of this housing first. Seriously I think I know where your priorities lie, it is with the almighty buck. Typical
rob h January 11, 2013 at 03:59 PM
YAY!!!!!! Let's make San Juan as congested as LA
Scott H January 11, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Ha ha I wouldn't comment unless I was born and raised here. If you were than you should know how long that intersection has needed this improvement. And crying about it won't stop people from moving here. If we want this area to be a better environment to raise our kids and make a living than progress like this needs to happen. Sooner or later the whole world will be an LA. Better get over it or you'll spend your life crying.... And if you hadn't noticed SJC is as congested as LA already that's what there going to fix.
rob h January 11, 2013 at 05:04 PM
You have an issue with if someone doesn't agree with you thay are crying. Not sure what your issue is. I am quite aware of the traffic problems in SJ. I own a business here. I do agree with you that it is already like LA, but hey! let's make it worse. By adding more homes more people do you really think this will make a better place for our kids to live? Seriously, there is no stopping stupid ideas when it comes to progress and the buck. You and I can go back and forth all day. Nothing solved. Lets agree to disagree, and leave it at that.
Scott H January 11, 2013 at 05:30 PM
And I agree with you about the amount of people here but, I am talking about the Ortega intersection getting redone for better traffic flow thru SJC, not homes or more people. If no more homes or people come here there still needs to be a solution to the traffic in SJC. Right now! I would like to drive thru SJC to get on the 5 and have it not take an hour. That is a problem now, like I said, even if another person never moves here ever again. If you think it a bad idea to help the traffic thru SJC, than what can I say? If you have ever complained about the traffic in SJC, then here is the solution. Accept it or stop complaining....
rob h January 11, 2013 at 05:48 PM
Scott I agree with you totally since you now have gotton down to the basis of what you want to say, except for the last sentence.
Dusty W Otero January 11, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Now its my turn,,I go back to the 1800;s here is this valley,,this is the best place to live and still is,,,when all this is done its going to be even better,,,more modern,..I used to get pee off too,,growing up on 100,s of acres of farm land and only a few neighbors,,Change the way you think or you will be miserable Rob H.. ,I used to drive a farm tractor up town to get gas,,,and than back to the orange grove to work all day,,,chill-out,,its not like L..A..,,
Scott H January 11, 2013 at 06:06 PM
;) have a great day rob! Happy Friday!
rob h January 11, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Thanks Scott, you too. And to Dusty, I was born and raised here and also spent a few years in the mountains. Your point is null and void Have nice weekend
Richard January 11, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Rob, why don't you purchase all the private property which you want to keep non-residential? Once you own it, you are not forced to develop housing. In fact, you can even amend the general plan to designate your new land as open space (if not already). But if someone else owns it, they have a right to develop according to the approved general plan and zoning map.
Buy My Bikes January 11, 2013 at 08:42 PM
If you own a business in town the next 2 years will be challenging at best! But if they are doing this wether we like it or not lets get together and make lemonade out of the lemons !! On the bright side all those new houses will bring in lots of new costumers!! Bicycle Jim!!!
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 11, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Well, Jim, in certain areas, a bike may be faster, so I think you're on to something!
Mamie January 12, 2013 at 05:23 AM
Quite frankly, I don't know how anyone could have gotten anything out of the meeting. The presenter did not have control of the meeting. It was impossible to hear the questions the audience was asking, and even though he (the presenter) was asked to repeat the questions before giving his answers, he refused to do so. In my opinion, the meeting was all about CalTrans and not the residents of SJC. My husband who almost never lets anything bother him said to me, "let's get out of here, this guy is wasting my time." I am hoping the City holds another meeting.
Whophantom January 13, 2013 at 03:03 PM
Does all this "improvement" mean Del Obsipo will be widened too?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 13, 2013 at 06:20 PM
No, that would be a city project.
Mike Proctor January 15, 2013 at 04:08 AM
three words, Rancho Mission Viejo.
DVC January 16, 2013 at 01:14 AM
It seems to me that the best thing for SJC is to tear down the Mission and put in shopping---it doesn't seem like many visitors really come to the Mission, and with the shops more tax revenue would be generated and that money could go to the dismal public school system in SJC (just compare the SJC standardized test scores to those of Laguna Beach and other nearby ideas---you will be shocked and agree with me).......getting rid of the Mission is a very smart decision, we just need the right people to get behind the idea..
deej January 18, 2013 at 12:37 PM
I don't live in SJC, but I love the town, and if I found the right job, I'd relocate and for several personal reasons. I understand the concerns I've read above, with the exception of just one....tearing down/getting rid of the Mission would be absolutely sinful! And to replace with more shopping? OC doesn't need anymore shopping. Ugh, such a sad thought.
Capo Parent January 21, 2013 at 03:33 PM
You'are kidding, right? The Mission is privately owned and a national historic landmark. Unless you're being sarcastic, please explain how the heck you would tear down the Mission.
bill odel April 04, 2013 at 04:12 PM
no comment this week.

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