Officials break ground on $215M freeway project

DOWNEY – City officials broke ground alongside California Department of Transportation District 7 and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority today to officially kick off the I-5 HOV Florence Avenue Interchange Project. The $215.4 million project extends through from Orr and Day Road in Santa Fe Springs and reaches just south of the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605) in Downey. It is the fifth of six construction projects that will widen the I-5 South Corridor. Completion of construction is anticipated for fall 2019.

“We’re adding a general purpose lane in both directions, and adding an HOV lane in both directions,” said Cal Trans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen. “We’re [also] improving the interchange at Florence.”

Bowen described the I-5 North and South as the backbone of the interstate in California, stating that traffic delays would increase over the next few years without the addition of the new lanes.

Among the speakers at the event were Downey Mayor Luis Marquez and Councilmember Fernando Vasquez.

Vasquez described the day as a historic day for Downey, the region and for the state of California, emphasizing the role the I-5 has in the region’s economy.

“We understand that in order to be competitive in the 21st century, Downey has to play a pivotal role, and our regional partners also in doing so,” Vasquez said. “And with that understanding is the importance of mobility.”

Vasquez went on to describe the importance of moving goods in and out of the region, and promoting family values by cutting commute times for residents in order to have parents spend more time at home with their children.

One concern that addressed by multiple speakers was the inconvenience that the project will bring to local residents, including the reduction of Florence Avenue to one lane. Marquez said that he and the City Council have done a good job in keeping Downey residents informed.

“Obviously there are concerns with such a major project like this, especially when there is issues with the impact on [resident’s] homes and their streets,” Marquez said. “We’ve tried as best as we can to inform the residents of what’s going on…For us, outreach is our number one priority; making sure that we’re informing and giving the most up to date information.

Even with some of the concerns, Marquez is looking forward to the progress that the Florence project will make.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy. There will be impacts. We have congestion there now [and] we’re going to one lane. But to finally see this project coming to fruition, we know it’s progress. It’s such an important thing not just for Downey, but for our region.”