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Ortega Interchange Upgrade on Horizon

The City Council will hear a report on the project at Tuesday's meeting and will consider some cooperative agreements with Caltrans.

Ortega Interchange Upgrade on Horizon Ortega Interchange Upgrade on Horizon

Workers will finally break ground on the project to overhaul the early next year.

Caltrans officials will give an update about the multimillion-dollar project at the City Council’s Tuesday meeting.

In addition, the council will consider putting some cooperative agreements in place with Caltrans to make the project “contract ready.” By doing so by an April 9 deadline, the project becomes available for $4 million in so-called Corridor Mobility Improvement Account funds, a state funding source for which only the Ortega Highway project qualifies in Orange County, according to a staff report.

The $4 million represents the county’s portion of the project, and if the California Transportation Commission approves Caltran’s request for the additional funding at its April 24-25 meeting, the county can redirect the $4 million elsewhere, the staff report states.

Already, the state has awarded $16 million in Corridor Mobility Improvement Account funds for the new Ortega Highway interchange, and the county has used that freed-up money for the La Pata extension, the staff report states.

“If CMIA funds are approved for this project, Caltrans will bid the project in November and select a contractor in December 2012, with groundbreaking expected in early 2013,” says the staff report.

Cities grade how well intersections function similarly to school grades (but with the addition of an "E" grade), and right now, the Ortega Highway interchange, which includes the intersection at Ortega and Del Obispo Street, operates at an “E” level of service, the lowest acceptable level the city allows, the staff report states.

If not improved, the interchange will surely fall to an “F” level of service in the next 25 years, the report states.

“The interchange currently operates under heavy delays during peak travel hours. Heavy traffic volumes and short intersection spacing create severe congestion during morning and afternoon commute hours,” the report states.

Caltrans is asking the city to enter into two cooperative agreements. The first is for storm drains, for which Caltrans will pay the city $112,000 to build three catch basins. Caltrans had a similar arrangement with the city for the improvements now underway at the , the report states.

The second agreement would see the city paying Caltrans $132,000 for sidewalk pavers on the west site of the new interchange, according to the staff report. Funding will come from Measure M, the county's half-cent sales tax that pays for transportation projects.

In a separate transportation issue, the City Council will consider entering into an agreement with the city of Dana Point to synchronize the traffic signals along Del Obispo in those two cities.

San Juan Capistrano would take the lead role, as 11 of the 17 signals along the street are in San Juan, according to a staff report. The project will take three years to complete.

The Orange County Transportation Authority will pay for 80 percent of the $173,000 project, with Dana Point picking up $12,250. The balance, $22,450, will come from gas tax fund reserves from the city of San Juan Capistrano, according to a staff report.

The City Council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at , 32400 Paseo Adelanto in San Juan Capistano.

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