Phase 1 of North Los Angeles County I-5 Improvement Project Officially Complete
By Tim Whyte
It was the biggest milestone yet for the Interstate 5 North Los Angeles County Improvement Project:
Dozens of dignitaries, Caltrans and L.A. Metro staffers, and supporters of the project gathered in December to celebrate the opening of the highly anticipated Phase 1 of the I-5 project: New truck and mixed-flow lanes between Pico Canyon Road/Lyons Avenue and the I-5 interchange with State Route 14.
The $67 million project, completed under budget from a combination of state, federal and county funds, extended the truck lane on the southbound side and added a mixed-flow lane to the outside of the freeway in both directions — giving car traffic and truck traffic vastly improved ability to separate from each other, improving traffic flow and safety.
The construction — traversing 1.4 miles on the northbound side and 3.7 miles on the southbound side — took two and a half years to complete but was nearly a decade in the making.
Phase 2 of the project, still in the planning stages, calls for the addition of high occupancy vehicle or carpool lanes along the same crucial stretch of I-5.
Shirley Choate, deputy director of Caltrans District 7, hosted the December ribbon cutting ceremony at the local Caltrans field office, and hailed the project as an important investment in preparing this stretch of I-5 to handle traffic volumes that are expected to double in the decades ahead.
“Wherever we have trucks and cars sharing space on a grade, it can be a recipe for congestion, unless we give the cars and trucks more lanes to use and get them out of each other’s way,” Choate said. “That’s exactly what this $67 million project has done.”
Assemblyman Scott Wilk noted that Connie Worden-Roberts, a longtime local transportation activist who passed away in 2014, would have been proud to see the debut of the truck lanes.
Wilk added that the I-5, which literally runs from “BC to BC” — as in, Baja California to British Columbia — is a vital regional and national artery for transportation and goods movement.
“This project is incredibly important for commerce, and for quality of life,” Wilk added.
Santa Clarita Councilwoman Laurene Weste, who served as mayor in 2014, noted that the I-5 Gateway’s importance to Southern California transportation dates back to the frontier days, when Beale’s Cut provided a vital route through the Newhall Pass to Los Angeles.
“We are so excited to have this done and we look forward to partnering with Caltrans and the Coalition in the future,” Weste said.
Christopher Newman, the region’s project delivery team leader for the Federal Highway Administration, called the project a solid investment of state and federal transportation dollars.
“Congestion along this major route can affect the quality of life for motorists and the very strength of our economy,” Newman said. “The project will provide welcome relief to congestion and enhanced safety along the corridor.”
Metro board member Ara Najarian praised the Gateway Coalition and Executive Director Victor Lindenheim, the City of Santa Clarita and Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office for helping to move the project forward in its early days.
Najarian added that Metro was proud to contribute $1 million in Measure R funds to the project, which gives trucks and cars room to separate from each other.
“There’s perhaps no better transportation project than that which can save lives, and that’s clearly what we have accomplished today.”