Given it is mostly a stretch of pavement surrounded by dirt, the El Horno underpass would likely not be described by most people as an appealing place to walk by.
That perspective may change under beautification plans by Caltrans.
The agency is planning to enhance conditions for the underpass—which is on El Horno Street near the temporary City Council Chamber and under the 1-5 freeway—and discussed those plans during a San Juan Capistrano City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
Sidewalks will be put in using decomposed granite, and slopes will be stabilized using gravel.
“There’s a lot of pocks in the slope. It’s a little bit degraded,” Clean CA representative Eric Corona said of current underpass conditions. “We’ve noticed people like to dig into these slopes and make little homes. That’s an opportunity to address that.”
The El Horno underpass also doesn’t currently have walking facilities that Caltrans can address, he said.
“The quadrant’s just super bare, so another opportunity there. As you get closer to the commercial side, that fence is pretty beat-up—so replacing the fencing,” Corona said of other enhancement plans. “Very overgrown trees; addressing those.”
Caltrans will also confer with the City of San Juan Capistrano on appropriate iconography to put on the underpass columns for a local look and feel.
“This project is made possible by a program called Clean California. It’s a three-year initiative,” Corona said. “It started in 2021, so we’re about halfway through. It’s going to end in 2024. It allocates about $1.1 billion dollars to improving the safety and beautification of our public spaces.”
San Juan Public Works Director Tom Toman said Corona approached City Manager Ben Siegel and him about the project a year ago.
The El Horno project is currently out to bid for contract work.
“It’s probably going to take until mid-March to award the contract and then another month to approve it. We’re probably looking at construction starting, maybe, in late April to early May,” Corona said. “This isn’t the highway-widening job, so expect it to be about 120 days for construction to be complete.”
Councilmember John Taylor thanked Corona and Caltrans for the coming improvements.
“This undercrossing’s going to be great,” he said.
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