Work on 5 Freeway back in gear

Construction on the Golden State (5) Freeway between Magnolia Boulevard and the Ventura (134) Freeway, which was stalled for six months after workers discovered unmapped utility lines, started back up this week, leaving Burbank commuters with a new round of closures.

The $153-million project to construct a carpool lane in each direction of the freeway between the 134 Freeway and Magnolia Boulevard, is nearly halfway done. It’s slated to be completed in the fall of 2016, officials with the California Department of Transportation said.

That’s roughly two years after the original completion date announced by Caltrans officials.

The project was put on hold roughly six months ago after workers found an abandoned 26-inch gas line that reportedly hadn’t been identified in any records and needed to be relocated, transportation officials said.

“Until we dig, that’s when we truly know what’s down there,” Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler said, adding that some of the utilities may be older than the city itself.

“It’s not something that’s uncommon to come across in projects,” Chandler said.

The Western Avenue offramps on the southbound 5 Freeway and the Alameda offramps on northbound 5 Freeway are closed until mid-2014.

Through Nov. 26, the onramps and offramps at Western Avenue, Alameda Avenue, Burbank Boulevard, Olive Avenue in both directions of the 5 Freeway, along with the connectors from the 134 to the 5 freeways, will be closed intermittently, officials said.

Several lane closures along the 5 Freeway are also scheduled.

Caltrans officials say that when the project is completed, the improvements will relieve traffic congestion and encourage ride-sharing.

The agency is also shooting to begin construction on an interchange at Empire Avenue early next year, though it was supposed to start this year, said Caltrans spokeswoman Kelly Markham.

“There were a number of unmapped utilities that we were not aware of that had to be relocated,” Markham said, explaining the delay.

The new interchange at Empire Avenue is part of a $355-million project which also includes building a carpool lane in each direction in a different stretch of the freeway — from Magnolia Boulevard to Buena Vista Street — reconstructing the Burbank Boulevard overcrossing and realigning its ramps and elevating the railroad at Buena Vista Street and San Fernando Boulevard.

The project also includes intersection improvements where San Fernando Boulevard hits Victory Place and Lincoln Street.

The Empire interchange project is slated to be completed in the spring of 2019, according to John Yang, principal transportation engineer at Caltrans.

“We believe it could be faster, but again I don’t have a crystal ball,” Yang said, adding that incentives to finish early are built into the agreement with the contractor.

Anyone with questions or concerns about the projects can call Caltrans at (855) 454-6335.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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