Orange County Branch Newsletter

February 2012

Transportation Technical Group

OCTA’s Freeway and Grade Separation Programs

By Ted Rigoni, PE, PMP
Secretary, Transportation Technical Group, OC ASCE

On Tuesday, January 10, 2012, the Orange County ASCE Branch, Transportation Technical Group, hosted a presentation by Rose Casey, Director of Highway Programs, OCTA, entitled, “OCTA’s Freeway and Grade Separation Programs.”    This presentation occurred at the University Club at UCI, and was attended by over 80 students and transportation professionals.

Ms. Casey, assisted by her excellent Powerpoint presentation, summarized planned improvements to Orange County freeways, including Interstate 5, 91, 405, as well as the status of the grade separation program for various arterial/ Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad crossings. The cost, status, phasing and unique features were provided for each of the freeways, as well as several of the grade separations.

An example of the information presented on freeways included the I-405.  The project will add new lanes to the I-405 freeway from SR-55 to the I-5. The project will also improve chokepoints at interchanges and add merging lanes near on- and off-ramps such as Lake Forest Drive, Irvine Center Drive and SR-133 to improve the overall freeway operations in the I-405/I-5 El Toro "Y" area. The projects will generally be constructed within the existing right of way.   This segment of the freeway also carries 354,000 vehicles a day. This number will increase by nearly 13 percent, bringing it up to 401,000 vehicles per day by 2030. The project will increase freeway capacity and reduce congestion.

Ms. Casey also spoke about OCTA working to improve traffic flow and safety on Orange County streets by building a series of bridges – both underpasses and overpasses – to separate car traffic from trains, as part of the “OC Bridges” program. These bridges will eliminate the need for commuters and commercial vehicles to stop, wait and waste time at railroad crossings as seemingly endless freight trains pass by. These delays are not only frustrating, they also aren’t good for the economy, the environment, and for our quality of life.  Close to 70 BNSF trains use the Orangethorpe Corridor in Anaheim, Fullerton and Placentia every day, causing delays and safety hazards, restricting emergency response and business access, and creating pollution and noise. More trains – and longer trains -- are coming, too: an estimated 130 trains daily by 2030!

Our thanks to OCTA’s website for providing the technical details in support of this summary, and where additional information may be found on the ongoing status and work activities for all transportation improvements in the OC. 

The photos accompanying this presentation summary are by Ms. Wendy Jones of RBF Consulting.