Some Burbank residents and people who work in the city told officials with the California Department of Transportation this week that it has taken the state too long to complete its 5 Freeway improvement project, which has taken about five years, so far, and stretches from Hollywood Way to the 134 Freeway.
John Yang, Caltrans’ construction corridor manager for the project, said during an open house Wednesday that he understands the state transportation agency has well overstayed its welcome in Burbank, and Caltrans officials are working diligently with the contractor to get the project completed.
Yang said work had stalled because of disputes with contractor Security Paving regarding the work schedule.
After talks with the business and arriving at an agreement, Yang said he thinks the project is back on track and could be finished by 2020.
Yang admitted that the contractor’s original proposal to finish the Hollywood Way-to-134 Freeway portion of the project by this year — which includes widening the freeway and demolishing and rebuilding the Burbank Boulevard bridge — was too ambitious.
“I wouldn’t blame the contractor. It’s just the nature of the beast. We have no complaints against them. They have to do what they have to do, but we also have to do what we have to do,” Yang said.
“So sometimes the disagreements and disputes lead to delays, but most of the times we mitigate it. Now, we have a resolution, so hopefully they will finish by the date they gave us,” he added.
Confident about the status of the project, Yang told attendees that the Empire Avenue underpass, which will connect Empire to North San Fernando Boulevard, is slated to be partially open in January.
He said motorists traveling northbound or southbound on the 5 Freeway will be able to exit at Empire. However, they will be limited to only making right turns from the off-ramp.
The long-awaited underpass is scheduled to be completed and open by July, Yang said.
Though the Empire underpass is a critical element of the project, the portion that has the most residents concerned is the demolition and reconstruction of the Burbank Boulevard bridge.
Yang said the bridge’s demolition, which is scheduled for this coming July, will not be done until the Empire underpass is fully open.
The underpass is expected to play a crucial role during that portion of the project by absorbing the traffic that would have been traveling across the Burbank Boulevard bridge.
Due to the design of the bridge, Yang said crews cannot take it down in one day, but they’ll work quickly over an estimated two-month period to remove the bridge.
“The schedule to complete this project is still 16 months, so if we start in July and factor in some rainy days and holidays, we’re targeting a completion date of December 2020,” Yang said. “It’s a more realistic goal.”
Though Yang told attendees he could see the light at the end of this very long tunnel, several people, including resident John DiFatta, pressured the transportation agency to simply get the project done.
DiFatta, who lives near the freeway, said he’s been seeing and hearing the construction crews at night and witnessing the slow progress on the project for the past five years.
DiFatta said that, after hearing so many broken promises, he doesn’t believe the project will be finished by 2020.
“It’ll probably finish by 2022, maybe,” he said. “By then, I’ll be long gone — retired up in San Luis Obispo.”