SACRAMENTO — Construction on portions of the massive Santa ana Freeway widening project in Orange County will be delayed at least 3 months because of a shortage in state highway funds, California Department of Transportation officials said Monday.
By accelerating construction and administrative procedures, officials said, the project may still be finished on time, although the delay will exhaust what little leeway had been built into the schedule.
"Of all our projects, this is the one we're most concerned about," said Keith McKean, director of Caltrans District 12 in Orange County.
The project is one of many throughout the state that department officials have identified as being subject to delay because of a projected $3.2-billion shortage in state transportation funds. Officials disclosed last week that the shortages would force them to begin cutting back projects in July, but they did not specify at that time which projects were to be affected.
In San Diego County, officials said, the final stages of construction on two freeway interchanges face postponement. In Los Angeles County, however, officials said no projects would be immediately affected by this development.
"The projects we have identified really cover the whole length and breadth of the state--rural and urban, north and south," Caltrans spokesman Jim Drago said.
McKean said his concern for Orange County is that the delays could affect the sequencing of construction along the Santa ana Freeway, meaning that some stages of the project may be completed ahead of others and thus create traffic bottlenecks.
The project will widen the Santa Ana Freeway--one of the two major north-south arteries in the county--from six to 10 lanes, except in places where auxiliary lanes will make it 12 lanes across. The freeway is one of the most congested in Southern California.
The widening from the San Diego Freeway to the Costa Mesa Freeway (California 55) was divided into four projects. Originally, the first contract was to be advertised for bidding in April, with the remaining ones to come at 2-week intervals. Contracts for all four projects were to have been awarded by the end of May.
Under a revised schedule, McKean said, the first project--the portion from the San Diego to the Laguna Freeway (California 133)--will not be advertised until May. The second--from the Laguna north to Jeffrey Road--will be advertised in June, and the last two--from Jeffrey Road to Jamboree Boulevard, and from Jamboree to the Costa Mesa--in August or September.
McKean said highway officials also fear that there may be delays in two other Orange County projects--the extension of the Costa Mesa from Wilson to 19th streets and the second stage of the reconstruction of the Santa Ana Freeway-Costa Mesa Freeway interchange from the Santa Ana north to 17th Street.
In San Diego County, officials said, the final stage of construction of an interchange at Interstate 5 and California 54 and an interchange at Interstate 8 and State 125 may be delayed because of the shortage.
Drago said the delays in Northern California, where weather affects construction, may be more serious than those in Southern California.
For example, he said, a project that may be postponed from April until August may fall too close to the end of the construction season. When temperatures drop to a certain point, he said, concrete cannot be poured and earthwork cannot be completed.
All the projects, he said, are still subject to final approval by the California Transportation Commission, which ultimately decides which will be advertised for bidding on schedule and which will not. He said those that are delayed in one bidding period will probably be given first priority in the next period.