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By Allison Jarrell

The California Department of Transportation announced an emergency closure of Ortega Highway Wednesday afternoon due to damage caused by the heavy rainfall over the past week.

Caltrans spokeswoman Jocelyn Whitfield said the road is closed until further notice eastbound at Gateway Place and westbound at Nichols Institute. Officials said the roadway was “severely undermined by the recent storms,” specifically at post mile 5.5, which is about 1.5 miles east of Antonio Parkway.

Whitfield said maintenance crews had been vigilantly checking Ortega Highway after the heavy rains and noticed a “dip” in the road on Wednesday morning. As crews monitored the dip, the “pavement began to crack” and a flagging operation was conducted to assess what was going on underneath the pavement. Whitfield clarified that the crack is not a sinkhole.

“Caltrans geotechnical engineers determined the roadway at that point has weakened due to the heavy rainfall experienced this past week and is not currently safe to use,” Whitfield said.

Caltrans geotechnical engineers will go back out Thursday morning to further assess the issue and determine what kind of repair is needed before bringing in an emergency construction crew to begin excavating underneath the pavement.

Whitfield said the issue could be that a culvert, about 24-inches in diameter, has collapsed. In that case, crews would remove the pavement and dig out the drainage structure to assess the damage.

Whitfield said it would be premature at this point to give an estimate of the length of the closure, as crews are still assessing the situation. It could be less than two weeks, or longer than three weeks—only time and analysis will tell.

“We do not know the length of the closure at this time until a full assessment can be determined, however, all motorists should plan to use alternate routes until further notice,” Whitfield said. “Signs will be posted to alert motorists of activity.”

For continuous updates on the closure, follow Caltrans District 12’s Facebook page @CaltransD12 or Twitter account @Caltrans12, contact the District 12 public information office at 657.328.6000, or visit


Interstate 5:
South I-5 to East SR-76 to North I-15
North I-5 to SR-55 to East SR-91 to South I-15

Interstate 15:
North 1-15 to Westbound SR-91 to South SR-55 to South I-5
South 1-15 to Westbound SR-76 to North 1-5

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