Burbank officials this week signed off on a massive $700-million state construction project for the Golden State (5) Freeway that will bring major traffic disruptions through 2015 as crews realign the ramps to accommodate new carpool lanes.
In one of the largest of the project’s impacts, the Burbank Boulevard bridge over the I-5 will be closed for nearly 14 months as crews reconstruct the overpass with new on- and off-ramps starting in 2013, cutting one of the main arteries into downtown and forcing widespread detours.
The California Department of Transportation must readjust the infrastructure to handle new HOV lanes on the I-5 between the Ventura (134) Freeway and Route 14.
“The shutting down of the Burbank Boulevard bridge for construction purposes will present routing challenges for residents and businesses,” Burbank Chamber of Commerce President Gary Olson said. “It is a major thoroughfare for people residing north of the I-5 Freeway to reach Costco and the Empire Center from the north, and will most likely alter current delivery routes to some extent.”
The bridge reconstruction will be near the tail-end of a number of major on- and off-ramp closures up and down the Interstate 5 through Burbank as Caltrans rebuilds and realigns the busy freeway.
Crews will first reconstruct the Empire Avenue interchange, a project that has been in the works since the 1990s as officials seek to improve traffic flow, said David Kriske, the principle transportation planner.
“When the Empire Center was built, it was with the idea that the interchange would be better,” Kriske said.
The new interchange will be at West Empire Avenue near the Scott Road off-ramps to the I-5 and will connect Empire Avenue west of Victory Place to San Fernando Boulevard through an undercrossing with Victory Place, railroad tracks and the freeway.
The off-ramp will be converted to allow full access to the freeway from Empire Avenue and San Fernando Boulevard. The existing San Fernando Boulevard undercrossing of the freeway will be eliminated.
“During outreach efforts with the surrounding the community, instead of better access to the freeway, neighbors were in favor of more inconvenience, in favor of protecting their streets from additional traffic,” Kriske said.
Caltrans expects to begin construction on the Empire Interchange later this year, but city officials said they were unsure of the project’s exact timeline due to the need to build a temporary railroad crossing while the existing street-level crossing is eliminated.
Demolishing the Burbank Boulevard bridge will partially cut off access to the downtown area. Vehicles traveling northbound on the I-5 will only be able to turn right to reach the Burbank Town Center and vehicles traveling southbound will only have the option of turning right toward Costco and the Empire Center.
While the $700-million project is funded by Caltrans, Kriske said he expects additional expenses for the city to ensure detours are clearly marked, as well as any landscaping the City Council may desire.
Councilman Dave Golonski requested additional community outreach to educate the public about the phasing in of the project and possible detours.
No one from the public addressed the project at the City Council meeting on Tuesday.
“There is no way you can undertake this project without major disruption,” he said.