New lanes dedicated on I-5 in Orange County

Vehicles travel down the section of Interstate 5 in Orange County that crews recently finished widening.
Vehicles travel down the section of Interstate 5 in Orange County that crews recently finished widening.
Susan Valot/KPCC

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Interstate 5 has long been one of the thorns in the side of commuters between Orange County and Los Angeles. Commuters may get some relief with a couple of new lanes that were dedicated today in Orange County, near the L.A. County line.

About a half-dozen classic “woodies” broke through a ceremonial sign and cruised onto the newly refurbished section of I-5 at Auto Center Drive in Buena Park.

The two-mile stretch of I-5 now has one new carpool and one new general lane in each direction.

Most of the money for the $335 million project, which broke ground four years ago, came from Orange County’s original Measure M half-cent sales tax.

Orange County Transportation Authority Chair and Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante says this is the last project to be finished with money from the first Measure M.

"This means a great deal to all Orange Countians. This is the end of a 20-year promise on our freeway projects and the beginning of great mobility in the west part of the county," Amante says. "Now we’ve connected from San Diego to L.A. County with 10 lanes of mobility. It’s wonderful."

But if you commute to or from L.A. along this stretch of the Santa Ana Freeway, you know what it’s like to sit in traffic at the bottleneck at the county line. That’s where Orange County’s now-10 lanes squeeze down to six.

"Certainly, we’ve got to be cognizant of the regional implications of all of the transportation work that we do," says OCTA CEO Will Kempton. "And it’s important to note that Los Angeles County will be following apace with a widening job of their own, beginning next summer.

"And so, we’ve sort of led the way and kind of pushed them into that. But we’ll see improvements between the county line and the 605 in the near future on their side."

That L.A. County project is expected to take several years to complete.

Transit officials say the widening not only brings relief to commuters, but also makes it easier to get to businesses along the freeway, which they say helps the local economy.