What's six miles long, takes about nine years to plan and build, and will likely cost local taxpayers at least half a billion dollars?
Answer: The first widening of the 5 Freeway between El Toro Road and the 73 toll road since 1997.
- See the changes being studied in a huge PDF file here.
On Wednesday at Mission Viejo's Civic Center, the public got its first glimpse of the project, which could add one or two lanes in each direction, extend the carpool lanes and improve freeway ramps and interchanges.
The project would be funded by the half-cent sales tax hike approved by 70 percent of Orange County voters in 2006. The Orange County Transportation Authority estimated construction would take place from 2018 to 2022.
Here are the proposals being studied:
- Alternative 1: Do nothing (cost: nothing)
- Alternative 2: Add one lane in each direction between El Toro Road in the north and the 73 tollway in the south, and extend the carpool lane from the El Toro Y to Alicia Parkway (estimated cost: $560 million)
- Alternative 3: Same as alternative 2, but with two new lanes in each direction (cost: $700 million)
Mission Viejo Councilman Frank Ury, who sits on OCTA's board of trustees, said the project is "desperately needed."
"Anyone who drives this on a daily basis knows how congested it is," he said. "People are going to move in. We can handle it by doing something or we can complain about it."
Still, not everyone is thrilled with the proposal.
"They're taking away my retirement," said Claire Schwan, whose Freeway Auto Supply at 26242 Avery Parkway would be displaced by the new lanes, forcing her to close after more than 40 years in business.
Others are taking a wait-and-see approach. Stewart and Jeri Cunningham, who bought one of Mission Viejo's first houses in 1966, said they don't want to "hold up progress," but are worried about noise affecting their home, which overlooks the 5.
The couple went to Wednesday's meeting to ask about sound barriers. "We're not happy about it, but it's going to happen," Stewart said.
Then again, in the nine years the project is expected to take to plan and finish, the added noise may become a moot point. "We'll be so old by then, we may not be able to hear [the traffic]," Stewart joked.
What do you think of the proposed I-5 widening? Tell us in the comments below.