Caltrans Breaks Ground on Burbank I-5 Corridor Improvements

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

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.”


(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

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.”


(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

 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.”    


(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

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.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)



    1. 5 years of traffic and inconvenience ? Wow – This is great–
      Once again the City of Burbank causes me to shake my head from side to side and ask – Who thought this was good idea? In typical Burbank fashion – An Improvement Project is anything but….
      Let’s look at a few improvement? projects around Burbank –
      5 points (Burbank & Victory) – This is one of the most poorly designed intersections you may come across in your travels. Congestion is a constant. You might sit at this light for 5 minutes. Driving west over the bridge is an adventure in danger with people cutting you off to enter Costco and others trying to change lanes at the last moment to get on to Victory. This part of Burbank is best avoided.
      Empire Center – I realize some may say this is a private development but someone in city planning OK’d the plans. Let’s look at the area near starbucks In this area where a small 2 lane road passes through the majority of restaurants in this complex. This area is nearly impenetrable at certain times of the day. Anyone with a bit of forethought would have spread these restaurants around the Empire center – i.e. any other shopping center in the country.
      The Airport Restaurant complex on Hollywood way & Avon – Whoever thought this design would work should just resign or better yet – fired for incompetency.
      Once again the lack of forethought in design combined with inconvenience is overwhelming at best….
      Entering this complex while driving north on Hollywood way is an absolute joke – First of all, if there are more than 3 cars waiting to enter at the light at Avon, the #2 lane on Hollywood way is blocked – this is an accident waiting to happen. People increase their speed under the underpass and at the last moment either have to change lanes or slam on their brakes. Once you are in the complex you must navigate through the crowded parking lot of Del Taco and Mc D’s. This is dangerous and ill-conceived.
      As a 40 yr resident of Burbank I do realize this city is far from ideal and accept it as that but this city has failed to place the residents concerns and safety ahead of Business and Commerce’s concerns and that’s how I feel——-

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