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Laguna Canyon Road Makes a Lane Change

Highway closes tonight, reopens Friday with a new 2-mile segment. The project to straighten, widen the road is slated to be done by early '06.

August 12, 2004|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

A three-year, $30-million project to widen and straighten a dangerous stretch of Laguna Canyon Road enters its second phase today with the permanent closure of 2 miles of the old roadway.

Traffic will be diverted to a recently completed, two-lane road that ultimately will become the route's southbound lanes, between the San Joaquin Hills toll road and the San Diego Freeway. Next summer, an additional 2-mile stretch will open adjacent to the new southbound lanes.

Caltrans officials say motorists along a 4-mile stretch of the highway will be served by two lanes in each direction by early 2006, the first significant improvements along that part of California 133 in 50 years. The new road will be upgraded with shoulders, bicycle lanes and guardrails in some areas.

"The road was adequate for the traffic demand until a decade ago when population in south Orange County exploded," said Pam Gorniak, a Caltrans spokeswoman. "A lot more people are traveling the rural highway now to Laguna Beach or Irvine."

The highway, which carries 30,000 vehicles a day, had been prone to flooding during the rainy season because of its proximity to the Laguna Lakes. Caltrans officials say the four-lane highway will be built higher to avoid flooding problems.

The project, funded equally by the state and Orange County, will result in the merging of two of the three Laguna Lakes that were separated by the old road.

"This will allow the existing wetlands to preserve themselves naturally," said Yvonne Washington, a Caltrans spokeswoman. "The new highway will add three undercrosses for animal crossing and drainage."

To accommodate the transition to the new roadway, the entire highway will close at 9 tonight and will reopen at 5 a.m. Friday on the recently completed 2-mile portion.

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