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Ortega Highway News

posted Jan 29, 2017, 7:13 PM by Nancy Streza   [ updated Feb 3, 2017, 8:10 AM ]
All the info that has been in the weekly/daily newsletters

From CalTrans

Eastbound / Westbound 74 Full Closure
From EB -74 AT Gibby rd to WB -74 AT Nichols Institute Rd
Due to Slide Removal
Expected to end at 1:01pm Feb 21, 2017

Last updated: 02/02/2017 11:37am

State of California • Department of Transportation


Date: January 31, 2017
District: 12
Contact: Jocelyn Whitfield
Phone: (657) 328-6000




ORANGE COUNTY -– The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) closed SR-74 Ortega Highway on January 25, 2017 to through traffic after it was learned that the roadway near post mile 5.5 was undermined by the recent rain storms causing it to be very unstable. After a thorough investigation by Caltrans Geological Technical Engineer of the scope and depth of the storm damage, it is estimated that, weather permitting, the severely damaged roadway can be fully restored in about three weeks from today.

Early on Wednesday morning a sudden ‘dip’ appeared in both lanes of the road and shortly afterwards Caltrans Maintenance crews noticed the pavement was also experiencing significant cracking. It was determined that the recent storms created a 2 foot void under the lanes where soil and roadway material had been washed away causing the depression. While that was of considerable concern, the road cracking indicated that there were deeper tension issues which also could possibly affect the stability of the road.

Caltrans brought in a specialized drilling machine and numerous tests have revealed that up to 30 feet under the pavement the soil and roadway materials have become unstable and are not strong enough to support the road. Caltrans will immediately excavate the damaged soil and materials, then initiate a grouting operation to fill in voids and strengthen the remaining soil and materials, and then rebuild the roadway. The restoration operation will run 24/7 until the roadway is fully repaired and reopened to traffic.

Due to the severity of the storm damage to the roadway there is no through traffic. The hard closure going eastbound on the Orange County side is near Cristianitos and Gibby Roads in San Juan Capistrano east of Antonio Parkway/La Pata Avenue. Coming westbound from the Lake Elsinore area in Riverside County the hard closure is at Nichols Institute Road also in San Juan Capistrano. Changeable Message Signs are posted to alert motorists. Carpooling and use of Metrolink trains are suggested.

While safety must be our first priority, Caltrans knows that this closure is very difficult for everyone who uses Ortega Highway. Caltrans assures the public that we will open SR-74 as soon as possible and requests the public’s patience and support while we make these essential repairs.


And so, just like Rancho Carrians/Carrilloans did during the storms, road closures, and fires of the past, we need to pull together.  We can grumble and complain (I’ve done enough of that this last week to last a year!)  and become even more bitter or we can make our community stronger and better.  How about this -- reach out to a neighbor – even one you don’t know -  or don't like:  share a meal, offer to buy groceries when you’re in town, offer to feed animals or water plants, share some fuel,  share a cup of tea or a bottle of wine, watch the Super Bowl together, pray & worship together on Sunday, organize a game night, call & chat, go for a hike or a ride, organize a carpool, end a feud, look through the directory and see who shares the same address - and offer to pick up their mail.

If you don’t have the latest directory and don’t know how to contact your neighbors, reply to this email and I’ll send you an Excel File.



From Bob:

Ortega road status as of 9:30 this morning.

We (Bob & Keith) talked to the construction company on site this morning and got the following information:
1. All required equipment is now on site

2. They are working 24/7 to get the repairs completed

3. They are core boring the road to find the unstable areas of the road, per Caltrans engineering

4. Coring should be completed -  they hope -  by Tuesday of next week

5. They will start repairing the road after that; there is no completion date yet

Yes - Ortega is still closed.  No matter what you might hear on the news or from anyone else - we can only access from the Lake Elsinore side.  (I’ve been bugging CalTrans to change their website language to make it more clear.)

If you have a Smartphone, I recommend using the WAZE app.  Today it took us on exits and side streets around the 91 that we had never used before – and we probably saved 20 minutes.

After meetings and a more reasoned approach, Quest has decided to pay to put employees up in hotel just up the 15. With no Ortega traffic it's an easy commute and restaurants nearby. Thank you to EVERYONE for their generosity. But this probably does make more sense and the employees are most likely happier with this option. They are truly thankful for Rancho Carrillo generosity!  - Mary


From CalTrans:
SR-74 Ortega Highway Emergency Closure Update:

Caltrans knows this closure is tough on everyone who lives/works on Ortega and drives through and would not do this if it weren't very serious. Safety is always our top priority.

Here is the current situation:

Because of the long lasting storms last weekend torrents of water rushed down the side of the vegetation next to the inside lane, ran underneath the road and pushed its way out of the side of the embankment on the outside lane.

This created two areas of safety concern: first is the 2' void we found that runs under both lanes and out the embankment created by the rushing water. (We are still working on determining if there are deeper problems.) Second is the stability of the embankment itself. Neither concern can be seen from a street view. Although the outside lane appears safe it's not because it relays more on the embankment for stability and support.

Roads are built in layers. Take out a middle layer and you have a very unstable road. Take out a middle inside chunk of an embankment and a slide/collapse is very possible.

We were all very fortunate this weakened road area was caught in time before people were hurt or a vehicle damaged. Caltrans Maintenance crews are out on Ortega daily to keep an eye on things and fix areas as needed and were quick to see the road 'dip' that suddenly appeared AND we also want the give a shout out 'Thank You' to the commuter who called the District 12 PIO office to report the dip. We don't have permission to release his name but we do appreciate the time he took to call us with his concern.

So this brings us back to the place where we are still determining the full amount of damage there may be and protecting the public from areas we already know are unsafe.

Again we know this closure is hard on everyone but please be assured that we will get Ortega open as soon as it is safe.


From Nancy:    I learned  today that CalTrans contracted with George Chumo Construction to do the project. They are still targeting for Feb. 10.


From Sylvia: Very interesting morning today with our Assemblywoman, Melissa Melendaz, District 67 in Murrieta. Although she had lots of issues for discussion, our Caltrans problem was not one of them. She was though, after the formal meeting, very cordial to me and let me talk to her director about our road issue. Again the topic of safety was explained to me and that even using the one lane for any passage would not be approved due to the unstable condition of that portion of the road. I was told, Melissa Melendez would be very happy to visit our community and speak with our residents if we wished in the future to do so for any issues and I was given the contact person to set it up.

She also introduced me to a CHP officer, very nice and I was told by him that our workmen, vendors or family, if they come thru the Elsinore road block (currently now only at Nichols) and say "going to Rancho Carrillo," they will be allowed to pass without stickers.

Thanks, Sylvia, for attending the meeting and getting the “sticker” requirement lifted!!!


Call 911 first and then any of the First Responders on the first page of your RC Directory for assistance.   Orange County will send a helicopter with two paramedics on board in case of a life-threatening or serious emergency.

Station 51 in El Cariso will respond for fire or other emergencies.

Some possible Urgent Care clinics:

1) Temecula 24HR Urgent Care – always open with on-site x-ray.
      41715 Winchester Road, Ste #101, Temecula    951-308-4451

2)  Danesh Medical Care, 31581 Canyon Estates Dr.


Normally I don’t put ads in our newsletters – but we don’t want our animals to suffer because of the road closure.

Canyon Feed
Please order early for Monday 30th delivery. 949-766-2825

Ortega Tack & Feed.
Per Jolina, “we will no longer be delivering feed. You can still come in for bagged feed, at this time we aren't carrying hay.”

Kruse Feed
They are willing to deliver up here and they’ve been talking with Canyon Feed to work together.  562-690-6998

Need help feeding or caring for your animals?
Here are some people who you can contact: (Numbers not published on the webpage.  Check with Nancy for numbers.)

Jacqui & Angie

Some possible Urgent Care clinics for animals
1) Elsinore Pet Clinic 16776 Lakeshore Dr.   (951) 674-7866
2) Temecula Valley Animal Hospital,
    26612 Margarita Rd #104, Murrieta, CA  (951) 200-3877


From Mary :  I've gotten a TON of responses about possibly renting rooms to Quest employees. Thank you!   I am waiting to get names from Quest and when I get the info on how many are in need etc.... I will call or text everyone back. Thank you so much!


After talking with CalTrans off and on all day, I’ve learned that the target date for us to drive through from San Juan Capistrano is still Feb. 10.

Many of you have asked about walking through or around the sink hole/damaged road area – and this is the official answer: 

“I'm told that pedestrians are not allowed. Sorry. It's not safe because there are signs (surface cracking) that the roadway is failing towards the river. There is also a large void detected under both lanes. The Geotechnical engineer is here assessing the situation.”

If anything changes, I will send out a OneCallNow phone message.  Please send me your phone number(s) if you did not get the call yesterday.


Some of the critical care staff members at Quest Diagnostics are looking for rooms to rent in Rancho Carrillo while the road is closed.  If you would like to help out and make some extra money, contact Mary Harding at 916-798-6052 or   (Specify your preferences:  how many people you can accommodate; male/female/no preference;  shared or single rooms, etc.)

Ortega highway is closed between our gate and Antonio because of a sinkhole at Gibby Road. The CHP Traffic site says it will open again on approximately February 10.

No local traffic is allowed so the only access is through Lake Elsinore.

You will need a Rancho Carrillo sticker or proof of residency (HOA water, electric, or phone bill, etc.)  to pass the CalTrans/CHP Checkpoint at Grand Avenue/Highway 74 in Lake Elsinore. 

You can pick up a sticker from either our mailbox (Lot 8) or the Huber’s mailbox (Lot 65).  Please do not take more than you need.

Today the average travel time was 4 hours from San Juan Capistrano on all routes (the 91, the 76 and the 78).

I asked the CalTrans workers who were issuing passes whether or not they would allow hay trucks.   They said, “You will need to talk to CHP about that. We were told RESIDENTS ONLY.”

Historically, fires and floods have always brought us closer together as neighbors.  Let us know how we can help each other  -  with feeding animals, picking up groceries or gasoline, or carpools.   Directories are available in my mailbox.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help!

We will update you as often as we can.  (If you didn’t receive a phone call today, please send me your info for the OneCallNow system.)

From CHP Chatter:


Obviously we can request a medivac helicopter in case of a serious emergency.  Call 911 and then any of the First Responders on the first page of your RC Directory for assistance.