RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA : Completion Nearing on 3 Road Projects

Even in the generally slow-paced, red-tape-choked world of highway construction, the completion of Alicia, Oso and Antonio parkways has met with unusual delays.

These major east-west arterials that would connect Rancho Santa Margarita with Mission Viejo have been tied to each other in a Catch-22 situation that has seen the final stages of these roads delayed for almost a year.

But all three are in the home stretch, and commuters could be using the roads by April--if there are no more unexpected delays.

"If we get any bad rain, we could be delayed again," said Bob Rende, a transportation specialist for the county who is working on Oso Parkway. "This has been a tough project."

Oso Parkway has been the main reason for the repeatedly delayed completion date for all three streets. Only about a mile of pavement is needed to connect the street between Rancho Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo, but it's been a tough road with obstacles such as steep hills and creek beds to overcome.

The latest delay came when construction crews found that the soil in the area was extremely soft, which makes laying roads difficult, Rende said.

"Imagine a mud pie," he said. "If it gets too wet, you can't work with it all, and if it gets too dry, it falls apart."

But if no extended rainstorms hit the area in the near future, Rende says the road should be completed this spring.

Until recently, the completion of Alicia Parkway was tied to Oso Parkway by an agreement between Mission Viejo and the Mission Viejo Co., a development firm. The city, which was concerned about a potential flood of traffic going through Mission Viejo, stipulated that the opening of Alicia Parkway be delayed until the completion of Oso Parkway.

But after seeing the completion date for Oso Parkway pushed back several times, the Mission Viejo City Council agreed Dec. 9 to waive the requirement that bound the streets' openings.

Mission Viejo Co. representatives say that construction on Alicia Parkway should be complete by April.

Construction is also ongoing on a 2-mile stretch of Antonio Parkway, which dead-ends in Rancho Santa Margarita and would run into a section of Oso Parkway. Rende said work on Antonio Parkway should be completed in time for the opening of Oso Parkway.

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