3-mile stretch of I-5 through Santa Ana will gain a second carpool lane in each direction

by in News

A second carpool lane is coming to the I-5 – making two in each direction between the 55 and 57 freeways.

“The project will help speed up commutes and alleviate bottlenecks on I-5 in Santa Ana, Orange and Tustin,” said Orange County Transportation Authority spokeswoman Megan Abba.

Traffic on the three-mile stretch is expected to climb from 380,000 to more than 400,000 vehicles a day by 2035, Abba said.

To make room for the added carpool lanes, the I-5 carpool ramps on Main Street in Santa Ana will be demolished this summer. The ramps originally were established so drivers could seamlessly enter and exit the carpool lanes.

In preparation for their removal, those ramps are expected to permanently close as early as 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. Main Street will remain open during construction.

Concrete barriers between the carpool and regular lanes also will be eliminated for the additional carpool lanes.

However, the freeway itself will not undergo widening. Consequently, sound walls and land along the existing freeway will not be affected, Abba said.

Construction is slated for completion in early 2021.

The I-5 Central County Improvements Project, a joint effort by OCTA and Caltrans, is projected to cost $41.5 million. It will be paid for with federal funding and money from Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation upgrades.

Already, nighttime lane closures are underway on the I-5 and 57 Freeway connector, where installation of temporary concrete barriers will create work areas.

In keeping with OCTA’s modern approach, the carpool lanes will be striped for continuous access – allowing drivers to move freely between the carpool and regular lanes. In 2007, OCTA started switching to broken-line carpool lanes, deeming them safer.

“There’s no reason to rush across several lanes of traffic to enter the carpool lanes,” OCTA explains on its website. “And there’s no need to slow down to exit.”

Otherwise, the carpool lanes will operate as they do today, earmarked for two or more people and free of charge. The freeway section will continue to have five regular lanes.

For more information about the project, go to octa.net/i5central.