I-5 project planned to address growing traffic problems

Commuters wait in early-morning traffic on Interstate 5. Signal File Photo

Traffic is expected to get worse. The Interstate 5 North County Enhancements Project, according to project representatives, looks to address the problem. 

During an online briefing Tuesday presented by the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. and the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, project officials outlined freeway enhancements in a five-year plan and where the entire project stands today. 

“As you know, I-5 is not just important to the Santa Clarita Valley, it’s an important arterial for the entire western United States,” said John Musella, president and chief strategist of the SCV Chamber. “They often refer to I-5 as BC to BC — British Columbia to Baja, California. And we are an important and strategic part of that as a gateway to and from Los Angeles, as well as our residents here in Santa Clarita commuting to and from Los Angeles.” 

According to Saroya Sandiford, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority community relations manager, Santa Clarita is expected to increase its population by more than 25,000 people by the year 2035. 

“So, in preparation for this population growth,” Sandiford said, “and to help relieve some of the congestion in the Santa Clarita Valley, Metro has partnered with Caltrans District 7 to make operational and safety enhancements along the Interstate 5 — I-5 freeway — in this northern part of Los Angeles County.” 

The project begins at the State Route 14 interchange in Santa Clarita and ends just south of Parker Road in Castaic. It includes 14 miles of HOV lanes in each direction, four sound wall segments (totaling 12 individual sound walls), the replacement and demolition of the Weldon Canyon Bridge in the Newhall Pass (anticipated to take place around late 2022 or mid 2023), the extension of northbound and southbound truck lanes between SR-14 and Calgrove Boulevard, 13.6 miles of median paving, 43 retaining walls, and improvements to the Intelligent Transportation System between the I-405 and the I-210 interchanges. 

According to L.A. Metro’s project page on its website, enhancements also include the addition of auxiliary lanes (outside lanes extending between an on-ramp and a subsequent off-ramp), which, the website indicates, are intended to augment safety on the freeway by increasing access for vehicles merging, offering trucks a separate lane from the general-purpose lanes. 

The project is expected to take place in three stages. The first stage, which began in October and includes worksite staging, median construction and the addition of HOV lanes and sound walls, is planned to go until January 2026. The second stage, which includes the addition of the auxiliary lanes and work on ramps, is set to go from September 2023 to January 2026. And the third stage, which includes the construction of exterior retaining walls, is set to begin February 2025 and go to October 2026. 

According to Billy Parent, project communication manager for OLHA USA — the prime contractor involved — there have been no major delays and the project is on schedule. However, Parent did say that schedules can change for any number of reasons. This kind of project, he told online guests, is a “dynamic thing” and there could be a different story in six months or 12 months. He does not, however, foresee any major issues at the moment. 

Sandiford added that L.A. Metro’s goal is to keep people up to date on what’s happening with the project, when work is happening, how it might affect those who travel the freeway, and if there are any delays or changes in plans. L.A. Metro and others involved take part in construction update meetings quarterly and community briefings as often as needed. 

“I think over the last three months, Billy and I,” Sandiford said, “we’ve been to 10 different organizations, giving, kind of, updates on what’s happening throughout construction.” 

Sandiford suggested that those with concerns or questions contact her if they feel such a meeting would be helpful. And, of course, she added, she or others involved can be emailed at [email protected] or called at 213-922-2772. Sandiford typically gets messages within around 48 hours after they’re sent, and she aims to return them promptly, she said. 

For more information about this project or to sign up for regular updates, go to L.A. Metro’s Interstate 5 North County Enhancements Project home page at Metro.net/projects/i-5-enhancements. 

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