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I-5 El Toro Road Interchange

I-5 El Toro Road Interchange

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), in partnership with California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), is studying potential alternatives to improve the Interstate 5 (I-5)/El Toro Road Interchange. OCTA and Caltrans are working closely with the cities of Lake Forest, Laguna Hills and Laguna Woods.

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The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), in partnership with the Orange County Transportation Authority, (OCTA) proposes to modify the Interstate 5 (I-5)/El Toro Road Interchange (PM 17.8/19.7) within the Cities of Lake Forest, Laguna Woods, and Laguna Hills. The purpose of the project is to improve traffic flow, optimize traffic signalization, improve traffic mobility through adjacent local street intersections, reduce freeway ramp queuing, and apply technology to help manage traffic demand. Currently, the project is in the environmental review and preliminary engineering process.

Project Overall Schedule

Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Review Process – Early 2023 – Winter 2025

Schedule for Final Design, Right of Way or Construction will be finalized as the PA/ED process progresses

Funding Sources: OCTA (OCGO) and Caltrans

Project History

In February 2015, the Project Study Report (PSR) considered 15 alternatives, of which four build alternatives were recommended for further study. In May 2017, OCTA and Caltrans initiated the Environmental and Preliminary Engineering (PAED) phase. Two of the four alternatives were removed from further study.

From April-May 2019, a Draft Initial Study/Environmental Assessment (IS/EA) was circulated for public review for the proposed Project. Following this public review period, a consensus on a preferred alternative could not be achieved due to lack of local support. Hence, these alternatives will be eliminated from further consideration.

In October 2021, OCTA initiated an Alternatives Assessment Study in order to take “one more look” at the I-5/El Toro Road interchange, to see if there was any other alternative interchange configuration(s) that could be developed to handle the Southbound (SB) traffic existing at El Toro Road. The goal of the conceptual interchange configurations prepared during the Alternatives Assessment Study was to meet the Purpose & Need of the project, which would reduce traffic congestion, improve on & off-ramps operation (reduce off-ramp queuing), improve traffic flow, and traffic signal optimization for the SB traffic exiting at El Toro Road. This study looked at seven alternatives and recommended the following two Build Alternatives (under Project Alternatives below) for detailed evaluation. At the request of the Cities, Caltrans is also evaluating the Transportation System Management (TSM) and Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Alternative as a standalone build alternative as discussed below.

From July-December 2023 a public scoping period was conducted. In response to comments received during this time, we extended the public scoping period for an additional 45 days to provide additional time for the public, resource agencies, and stakeholders to provide input on the depth and breadth of issues that should be addressed in the environmental document.

Proposed Alternatives

Four alternatives are proposed for consideration, one No Build and three Build Alternatives.

No Build Alternative

The No Build Alternative proposes no action, where no construction or improvements would be made to the I-5/El Toro Road Interchange apart from proposed projects that are under development or concurrently in construction. The No Build Alternative would not address the issues and deficiencies within the project limits.

Build Alternative AA-1

Alternative AA-1 proposes an additional I-5 SB off-ramp to independently serve El Toro Road EAST, and El Toro WEST. These two SB off-ramps are proposed in lieu of the one existing SB offramp. This is accomplished with a 2-lane I-5 SB off-ramp to El Toro Road that is split with one lane assigned to El Toro Road WEST, using the existing hook ramp, while one lane is assigned to El Toro Road EAST that is braided over the SB hook on-ramp. This ramp then travels over El Toro Road on a new bridge, and then ties into a realigned Avenida De La Carlota by the Laguna Hills Mall area. A new SB hook on-ramp is provided along the realigned Avenida De La Carlota. The existing SB direct on-ramp from El Toro Road is eliminated, while the existing access provided by the SB ramps, opposite Paseo De La Valencia, are maintained. The NB ramps would be in a similar configuration as today, with improvements made by I-5 Segment 3, which is currently under construction.

Plan view of alternative AA-1

Build Alternative AA-5

Alternative AA-5 proposes an I-5 SB flyover off-ramp to independently serve El Toro Road EAST, and a separate hook off-ramp for El Toro WEST. This is accomplished with a 2-lane I-5 SB offramp to El Toro Road that is split with one lane assigned to El Toro Road WEST, using the existing hook ramp, while one lane is assigned to El Toro Road EAST that is a flyover that connects to both El Toro Road and Rockfield Boulevard. The flyover ramp connects into a roundabout that provides access to El Toro Road EAST, and provides access to Los Alisos Boulevard. Vehicles accessing El Toro Road EAST would have to make a right turn onto El Toro Road.

Plan view of alternative AA-5

Build Alternative - Transportation System Management (TSM) and Transportation Demand Management (TDM)

OCTA and Caltrans will evaluate a standalone TSM/TDM Alternative. TSM strategies increase the efficiency of existing facilities; they are actions that increase the number of vehicle trips a facility can carry without increasing the number of through lanes. Examples of TSM strategies for this project include ramp metering, signal timing, signal coordination, and intersection technology.

TDM focuses on regional means of reducing the number of vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled as well as increasing vehicle occupancy. As an example, a regional agency could actively promote ridesharing, maintain rideshare databases, and provide limited rideshare services to employers and individuals.