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Work on I-5 Is Delayed by Shortage of Funds

Times Staff Writer

Construction on portions of the massive Interstate 5 widening project in Orange County will be delayed at least three months because of a shortage in state highway funds, California Department of Transportation officials said Monday.

By accelerating construction and administrative procedures, officials said they may still be able to finish the project on time, although the initial delay will exhaust what little leeway had been built into the schedule.

“Of all our projects this is the one we’re most concerned about,” said Keith McKean, director of Caltrans District 12 in Orange County.

The project is one of many throughout the state that has been identified by department officials as being subject to delay because of a projected $3.2-billion shortage in state transportation funds. Officials disclosed last week that the shortages would force them to begin cutting back projects in July, but at that time they did not specify which projects were to be affected.

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Possible Postponement

In Los Angeles County, meanwhile, officials said there were no projects that would immediately be affected by the new policy. In San Diego County, officials said, the final stages of construction on two freeway interchanges face possible postponement.

“The projects we have identified really cover the whole length and breadth of the state--rural and urban, north and south,” Caltrans spokesman Jim Drago said.

McKean said his concern in Orange County is that the delays could affect the sequencing of construction along Interstate 5 so that some stages of the project may be completed ahead of others, thus creating traffic bottlenecks.

The project will widen Interstate 5--one of the county’s two major north-south arteries--from six to 10 lanes except in areas where auxiliary lanes will be constructed to make it 12 lanes across. The freeway is one of the most congested in Southern California.

Revised Schedule

The widening from Interstate 405 to California Highway 55 was divided into four projects. Originally, the first contract was to be advertised for bidding in April, with the remaining to follow at two-week intervals. Contracts on all four projects were to have been awarded by the end of May.

Under a revised schedule, McKean said the first project, from Interstate 405 to California Highway 133, will not be advertised until May. The second stage, from Highway 133 north to Jeffrey Road, will be advertised in June and the final two stages, from Jeffrey Road to Jamboree Boulevard and Jamboree to Highway 55, in August or September.

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McKean said highway officials also fear that there may be delays in two other Orange County projects--the extension of the Costa Mesa Freeway (California Highway 55) from Wilson Street to 19th Street and the second stage of the reconstruction of the Interstate 5-Costa Mesa Freeway interchange from Interstate 5 north to 17th Street.

In San Diego County, officials said the final stage of construction of an interchange at Interstate 5 and California Highway 54 and an interchange at Interstate 8 and California Highway 125 may be delayed because of the money shortages.

Drago said the delays in Northern California, where weather affects construction, may be more serious than the delays in Southern California.

For example, he said, a project that may be postponed from April until August may be nearing the end of the construction season. When temperatures drop to a certain point, he said, concrete cannot be poured, and when the ground becomes frozen earthwork cannot be completed.

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All the projects, he said, are still subject to final approval by the California Transportation Commission, which ultimately decides which ones will be advertised for bidding on schedule and which ones will not. He said those that are delayed in one bidding period will probably be given first priority in the next period.


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