Burbank kicked off a 5 year project Wednesday morning which will cost $355 million, add 2.2 miles of HOV lanes, close parts of San Fernando Blvd, realign the Burbank Blvd interchange, as well as elevate railroad tracks at the Buena Vista and San Fernando Blvd crossing.
Dubbed the “I-5 / Empire Project,” construction activities will stretch from Buena Vista St to Magnolia Blvd. During the 5 year construction period road closures and delays will be frequent, with several 55 hour closures on I-5 anticipated as the project proceeds.
Carrie Bowen, Caltrans District 7 Director, highlighted many of the important aspects of the project. “The project is vitally important for the 200,000 motorists who travel through the City of Burbank every day, and for everyone who lives, works, or goes to school in Burbank” explained Bowen. “This project will reduce congestion on I-5, improve traffic flow, and that means less time wasted sitting in traffic, and a better quality of life.”
Burbank Mayor David Gordon continued “today marks an important milestone with delivery of a project that will provide tremendous improvement for local, as well as regional traffic circulation around the City of Burbank.” Gordon emphasized the I-5 / Empire project will “dramatically improve travel through Burbank by providing a full freeway interchange connecting Interstate-5 directly to the Empire Center, Bob Hope Airport, and new development in the airport area.”
“This is truly a partnership” noted Rick Backlund, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Associate Director Administrator. “This is a project that has so many benefits. However safety is the #1 priority.”
The need for safety was echoed by Lt. Tony Pena, California Highway Patrol. “We try to provide safety (support) for not only Caltrans workers, but also the motorists who are going through the construction zones” added Lt. Pena. “This project is going to take several years to completion, and we just want to remind the public to slow down for the cones. If you see orange cones out there, or orange vests, just slow down a bit. Be aware of your surroundings. There is machinery out there, personnel, trucks going in and out. I’d just like to ask when you are out there, don’t drive distracted.”
Jesse Talamantes, Burbank City Council Member, enthusiastically explained how the I-5 / Empire Project will bring value to Burbank. “You know, Burbank is the hub. We have two railroad tracks coming through here, two freeways, and we’ve got an airport. There are not too many cities in the country or state that can say that.” Talamantes also offered “we are already a prime location for business. With all this going on people will be able to travel more easily to Burbank, making (the city) more attractive than it always has been.”
According to Caltrans the I-5 / Empire Project will include the following major improvements (and disruptions):
- At a high occupancy vehicle lane in each direction of I-5 between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista St.
- Construct a new interchange and undercrossing at I-5 and Empire Ave.
- Elevate the railroad tracks at Buena Vista St and San Fernando Blvd to eliminate street-level crossing.
- Realign and elevate railroad tracks adjacent to Empire Ave.
- Reconstruct the Burbank Blvd overcrossing, and realign on-off ramps
- Realign and widen ramps at Buena Vista
- Improve intersection of San Fernando Blvd / Victory Place at Lincoln St.
- Restripe Amherst Drive adjacent to McCambridge Park as detour for San Fernando Blvd.
- Add new interchange at Empire Ave.
- Elevate railroad tracks adjacent to Victory Place.
- Frequent closures and detours along exits supporting the Commercial District.
- Addition of new cameras along Glenoaks Blvd to monitor, measure, and adjust traffic patterns as Glenoaks Blvd becomes a detour for San Fernando Blvd.
Major Closures include:
San Fernando Blvd. The half-mile segment of San Fernando Blvd that crosses under I-5 is permanently closed. This segment will be realigned into the new I-5 / Empire Interchange.
Burbank Blvd. The Burbank Blvd overcrossing at I-5 will be closed and reconstructed to accommodate new carpool lanes. The closure will be for approximately 14 months.
According to David Kriske, Burbank Deputy City Planner for Transportation, $26 million will also be allocated to help mitigate disruption to local business and residents. Some potential uses of the mitigation budget include:
- Area graffiti and trash removal
- Landscaping along the I-5 Corridor
- Foot bridges across high density roadways
- And other activities designed to reduce disruption to the area
Kriske also noted that businesses incurring loss directly attributed to the I-5 / Empire Project have the right to file claims directly with Caltrans for possible compensation.
As dignitaries attending the groundbreaking ceremony cycled through their turns at the groundbreaking shovel photo opportunity, Burbank completed the first milestone in the I-5 / Empire Project. And while we may harbor deeper dreams about CA-134 East connectors to the I-5 Corridor, this is a major step in providing a safer and more efficient transportation utility to Burbank and the western United States.