One of the county's most congested thoroughfares will be partially closed along a one-mile stretch over the next nine months, an inconvenience to thousands of commuters who use El Toro Road to reach inland communities in South County.
The project had been delayed for two years after geologists located two active landslides and discovered the road had shifted. Those areas had to be stabilized before the work could begin.
The $6.5-million project--which will widen the road from two to five lanes--is one of a handful of street improvements across the county.
One of the largest is a $10-million widening of Imperial Highway in Yorba Linda from Orangethorpe Avenue to Rose Drive, expected to be completed within the year, said Dean Delgado, principal transportation analyst for the Orange County Transportation Authority.
And in the unincorporated area between Tustin and Orange, Newport Boulevard is undergoing a $1-million widening. That project will likely take another six months for completion, Delgado said.
"There's a lot of activity out there, and in different areas of the county for different reasons," said George Urch, a spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority. "In the north, you've got older cities that have potholes and roads that need to be reconstructed or redevelopment projects that require a change in the flow of traffic. In the south, you've got a lot of new development, so there are a lot of brand new roads that are being built."
In South County, El Toro Road is considered one of the region's principal north-south corridors, passing through six communities--from Portola Hills at the northern end to Laguna Beach on the south. The road is also a main gateway to the Foothill Tollroad, which carries motorists from the Riverside Freeway to South County.
In Mission Viejo, the widening project will give El Toro Road between the tollway and Glenn Ranch Road three northbound and two southbound lanes, completing the city's "ultimate build-out" for the street, said Loren Anderson, an engineer for Mission Viejo. Currently, El Toro Road has only one lane in each direction in that stretch.
"It's a major arterial in the county's master plan of highways," Anderson said, over which more than 10,000 cars pass each day.
The closure, which began on Monday, snarled traffic earlier this week and created confusion among motorists, who were diverted onto Portola Parkway, south of Marguerite, and then onto Glenn Ranch Road before being allowed back onto El Toro--a detour of less than a mile, said Anderson.
The city is splitting the cost of the $6.5-million project with Shea Homes, which developed the nearby Painted Trails housing community.