Commuters may soon be able to get to the Empire Center in Burbank without having to use Burbank Boulevard.
After a series of delays, the long-awaited Empire Avenue interchange along the 5 Freeway is scheduled to open by Sept. 19, according to an update provided by Caltrans to the city of Burbank on Monday.
When it opens, the interchange will connect Empire with North San Fernando Boulevard via an underpass under the 5 Freeway, allowing motorists to get to and from the Empire Center without having to take Burbank Boulevard to Victory Place.
The interchange will also allow commuters to use the on-ramps and off-ramps to get on or off the 5 Freeway.
However, Caltrans is planning to close three ramps at Burbank Boulevard in preparation for the final component of the freeway-improvement project in the city, which is to demolish and rebuild the Burbank Boulevard bridge.
The ramp closures, which are scheduled to be implemented around Sept. 20, will prohibit motorists from taking the Burbank off-ramp on the northbound and southbound sides of the 5 Freeway, as well as close the southbound on-ramp onto the freeway at Burbank Boulevard.
The Empire project, which was delayed by weather, was originally anticipated to be partially opened this past January and fully opened in July, according to state officials last September.
John Yang, Caltrans’ construction corridor manager for the 5 Freeway improvement project, said on Tuesday that the opening of the Empire interchange near the end of the month is much sooner than the revised target date of this December.
Although the contractor is expected to finish work on the interchange this month, he said the date is not set in stone because Caltrans and the contractor are still finalizing the plans for the ramp closures, Yang said.
“It’s been a long time coming, and we welcome it with open arms, but there’s going to be much more work coming with the Burbank Boulevard bridge,” he said. “We can see the end of the tunnel right now.”
Yang added that Caltrans is still aiming to complete all of the major projects on this stretch of the 5 Freeway — including the widening of the corridor to allow for HOV lanes and rebuilding the Burbank Boulevard bridge — by 2021.