Groundbreaking held this morning for I-5/Carmenita Road interchange project

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Public officials held a groundbreaking on Wednesday morning for a project to improve the Carmenita/I-5 interchange. As the Google satellite view above shows, the bridge is two lanes wide at present. A new bridge will widen it to 10 lanes, according to Caltrans, with a scheduled completion date of 2015.

This is a key Measure R road project that is one of six projects that seek to widen the 5 freeway between the 605 and the Orange County line. As many motorists know, this stretch of the 5 in Los Angeles County south of downtown is often three lanes in each direction and then widens considerably in the OC. The Carmenita bridge has to be replaced in order for widening to take palce.

It’s good news that the project is getting started. But readers should also know this: if a state budget isn’t adopted soon, then it’s possible that a state bond sale scheduled for this fall won’t take place. Those bonds would help fund this project.

Metro Board Chairman Don Knabe speaks at this morning's groundbreaking event. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.

Here’s some background from a Caltrans media advistory about how the project will work:

Construction is scheduled to begin early fall 2011 and is expected to complete by early 2015. The $380 million project is financed by federal, state and local funding, which includes $15 million from the state’s 2006 Proposition 1B and $288.7 million programmed through Metro. This project is the first of six, totaling $1.24 billion, to improve I-5 from the Orange County line to the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605). The Carmenita project will replace the existing two-lane steel overpass with a ten-lane concrete structure nearly five times its current size, and widen the freeway by adding one High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV), or carpool lane, and one general purpose lane in each direction from Alondra Boulevard to Shoemaker Avenue, a distance of 1.2 miles.

Overall traffic circulation on the interchange will be improved to accommodate future projected traffic demands, reduce congestion and improve safety. On average, more than 173,000 vehicles travel this section of freeway daily.

Many public officials were in attendance at the ceremony on Wednesday, including Metro Board Chairman Don Knabe, who noted that this is a project that has been talked about for 20 years but never had the funding.