More freeway improvements are on the way

More than $4 billion is being spent to improve over 28 miles of freeways and toll roads in Orange County.

Sixteen miles of I-405 have just been widened, and now lanes will be added to 12 miles of I-5 and the 55 freeway, and a new Express Connector will join the 241 toll road to the 91 Express Lanes.

“We just finished the biggest project we have ever done,” Orange County Transportation Authority CEO Darrell E. Johnson says of the recent I-405 widening. “But there are other significant projects underway designed to keep a free flow of traffic, too.”

The $2.2 billion I-405 project added two lanes – one regular lane and one Express Lane – in each direction north of Irvine, and reconstructed 18 bridges and dozens of entrance and exit ramps.

As a result, it now takes about 16 minutes to travel a stretch of I-405 that used to take over 30 minutes.

“It is performing as planned,” Johnson says.

And there are plenty of new lanes still to come as part of $4 billion in projects made possible by federal and state funding, as well as Orange County’s voter-

approved Measure M half‑cent sales tax.

Here’s a quick summary of what’s underway to get you from Orange County to L.A., San Diego or over to the mountains in less time.

Widening I-5

This year, OCTA will complete work on a 6.5-mile stretch of I-5 south of the El Toro Y. The $664 million project will add one new lane in each direction from Alicia Parkway to Avery Parkway in Mission Viejo and extend a second carpool lane from El Toro Road to Alicia Parkway.

The project, which is 95% complete, will also improve 33 entrance and exit ramps.

“Motorists already can see the new lanes, improved ramps and other improvements,” Johnson says. “We think that extending these carpool lanes will be very helpful.”

“These improvements will increase access to job centers, health care and educational facilities, and John Wayne Airport, among other important destinations.” – Darrell E. Johnson

Widening the 55 freeway

Meanwhile, OCTA has begun widening nearly 5 miles of the 55 freeway, between I-405 and I-5.

The $475 million project will add one regular lane and one carpool lane in each direction, as well as auxiliary lanes to ease traffic entering and exiting the freeway. It is projected to finish in 2026.

“These improvements will increase access to job centers, health care and educational facilities, and John Wayne Airport, among other important destinations,” Johnson says.

241/91 Express Connector

On Orange County’s eastern edge, a project connecting the 241 toll road and 91 Express Lanes will provide a seamless transition to improve travel times between the tolled facilities.

The 241/91 Express Connector will include a 7-mile stretch connecting the northbound 241 toll road to the eastbound 91 Express Lanes, and the southbound 241 toll road to the westbound 91 Express Lanes.

A FasTrak transponder will be required on the connector, and tolls will be collected electronically.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies, which are leading the project, say the work will also improve traffic flow on the 91 freeway general-purpose lanes by reducing the number of cars weaving across to access the 91 Express Lanes.

Construction on the $423 million project is scheduled to begin next year and should be completed by 2027.