By Brian Park
San Juan Capistrano has submitted an application with the Orange County Transportation Authority to obtain funding to complete the Ortega Highway Widening Project on a stretch of road that was previously tied up in litigation.
The City Council voted 4-1, with Councilman Derek Reeve opposing, to authorize the application on Tuesday night.
Upon OCTA’s approval of Measure M grant funds, the city will receive $1.05 million to complete engineering designs and submit the project for Caltrans’ approval. The city is also negotiating with the county and Rancho Mission Viejo to secure $450,000 in developer matching funds.
The scope of the remaining work will take place between Calle Entradero and the city’s eastern limits. The project will widen Ortega Highway from two to four lanes, add 5-foot shoulders on both sides, a 12-foot median and install a traffic signal at Via Cordova.
Meanwhile, the rest of the project, from the eastern city limits to Antonio Parkway/La Pata Avenue, has already been completed.
The city and transportation officials identified the stretch of road as a major chokepoint as far back as 2002, according to Mayor Pro Tem Sam Allevato. The project aims to eliminate the traffic bottleneck.
In 2009, the Hunt Club Community Association and the city challenged Caltrans’ final Environmental Impact Report for the project, specifically the traffic safety, noise and aesthetic impacts of the project. The lawsuit was settled in July 2011.
Allevato said it was important to finish the project because the flooding that occurs after major rain storms threatens the roadway and homes on the south side of Ortega Highway. He also said the traffic signal could serve an additional purpose as a trail connection for the equestrian community.