By Brian Park
The Capistrano Unified School District is looking for ways to mitigate the impacts of two major construction projects, slated to begin this year along Interstate 5, on school transportation.
Representatives from Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority provided updates of their respective projects to the CUSD Board of Trustees during a pair of informational presentations Wednesday night. District staff told the board that several schools in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente are likely to be affected by the projects.
Caltrans spokesman David Richardson told the board that the first construction alert will be sent out to email subscribers Thursday for the Ortega Highway/I-5 Interchange Project. Construction crews will begin restriping work and install K-rails shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning, February 19.
The $86.2 million project will completely rebuild the Ortega Highway bridge over I-5, construct a new northbound loop on-ramp, reconfigure the northern portion of Del Obispo Street and apply several changes to existing on- and off-ramps. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.
The district has already met with the city of San Juan Capistrano and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to discuss possible traffic solutions, including increasing the presence of sheriff’s deputies, starting a shuttle service and opening the El Horno Street undercrossing for school buses, according to Deputy Superintendent Clark Hampton.
The San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce also sent a letter to the City Council last week, asking the city to consider temporarily opening the undercrossing to alleviate traffic between the eastern and western parts of town. The issue is currently not scheduled for any commission review, according to Cathy Salcedo, the city’s executive services manager.
Trustee Jim Reardon, a San Juan Capistrano resident, said accommodations would have to be made for the district’s compressed natural gas school buses because their only local refueling stations are within the project’s impact zone, off Avery Parkway and near JSerra Catholic High School.
“We have to get CUSD employees out there as eyes and ears to let us know when there are problems. There are going to be issues of students getting to school late,” Reardon said. “I hope we can get some feedback from the schools about attendance problems … so we don’t lose kids in first and zero periods.”
Meanwhile, the first phase of OCTA’s South County I-5 Improvement Project will begin this summer with the addition of northbound and southbound carpool lanes, according to spokeswoman Julie Toledo.
Major construction to rebuild the Avenida Pico/I-5 interchange will begin in the summer of 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2017. That phase of the project will widen the northbound Avenida Pico on-ramp to three lanes and build dual left-turn lanes at both off-ramps onto Pico.
Trustee Ellen Addonizio expressed concern about noise pollution possibly affecting students during state standardized testing. Toledo said that in a previous project, OCTA told their contracted crews to modify their schedules when students prepare for and take their tests.
Hampton said new air conditioners installed at San Juan Elementary School in November should help abate noise and dust pollution at the school that might come as a result of Caltrans’ project.
Also on Wednesday:
- The school board unanimously ratified a Certificate of Compliance between the district and Rancho Mission Viejo. The certificate acts as a placeholder while a complete mitigation agreement is negotiated regarding Rancho Mission Viejo’s plans to build model homes within district boundaries. The mitigation agreement will establish guidelines for the funding of school sites and facilities to accommodate more than 4,500 students Rancho Mission Viejo expects to be coming into the district in the coming years, as a result of their new developments.
- School board agendas will remain the same after the board decided not to revert back to an older format. Trustees Reardon and Anna Bryson both expressed interest in having staff include a brief sentence describing the potential fiscal impacts of certain agenda items.
- The board unanimously approved to include the State Seal of Biliteracy on the transcripts and diplomas of students who have attained a high level of proficiency with one or more languages, in addition to English. English-learning students would also be eligible for the distinction. Last year, more than 300 CUSD students were eligible to receive the distinction, according to Assistant Superintendent Julie Hatchel.