Second, five-day 210 Freeway construction causes five-mile backup, delay in commute – San Bernardino Sun

A five-mile backup greeted commuters Thursday morning on the westbound 210 Freeway during the second five-day semi-closure in the past month to allow Caltrans to perform major roadwork.

Vehicles were backed up about five miles to Grand Avenue in Glendora, adding about an hour to the morning commute from the Inland Empire, high desert and eastern Los Angeles County cities into the north San Gabriel Valley, downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

As crews began repairs on the section of east lanes at the San Gabriel River Bridge, Caltrans diverted eastbound drivers into three lanes on the westbound freeway portion. That portion was also reconfigured to allow westbound drivers to squeeze into three lanes, overall reducing the freeway capacity by 50%.


The construction is along a 1.3-mile section of the busy freeway between the 605 Freeway interchange in Duarte and the Irwindale Avenue exit in Irwindale. Caltrans reported that the work completely closed the 605 connector to the eastbound 210, as well as the westbound 210 connector to the southbound 605, and the eastbound 210 Mount Olive Drive onramps.

Eric Menjivar, Caltrans spokesman, said on Thursday that all this is supposed to end by 5 a.m. Aug. 23, when the agency is scheduled to finish construction and reopen the lanes.

While this second semi-closure is the mirror image of a very similar one that lasted from July 20 to July 26, when construction crews repaired and rebuilt the westbound section of the bridge, this time the eastbound-lane portion is being repaired and a section replaced with new rebar and concrete, part of a $30 million project.

“Once we are done with this on Tuesday, commuters won’t have to deal with this anymore. No more long-term closures,” Menjivar said. But there could be some single lane closures at night as Caltrans replaces freeway medians and side barriers, he said.

While Caltrans posted 80 signs along the 210 and other connecting freeways for weeks ahead, sending out warnings to motorists about the latest work and lane reductions, it didn’t make some drivers happier.

In fact, some were caught off guard.

“It was crazy. There was traffic the whole (expletive) way,” said Jose Martinez, as he filled his tank with gas at a station on Huntington Drive in Duarte after exiting the freeway.

Martinez, who was driving from Victorville into the San Gabriel Valley, was unaware of the construction and extreme lane reductions. “It was horrible. I was stuck in it for an hour. It started jamming at Grand Avenue,” he said. Around 8:45 a.m., he left the gas station to rejoin the 210 Freeway westbound.

But a few miles beyond the construction, a work truck caught fire, blocking three westbound lanes at the Sierra Madre/San Gabriel Boulevard offramp, backing up westbound traffic to Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia.

“Yeah, that made things worse. It was adding insult to injury,” Menjivar said.

Hoping to avoid the construction squeeze, many motorists hopped off the freeway in Glendora and Azusa, using Arrow Highway and Foothill Boulevard. Both surface street immediately became gridlocked.

Menjivar urges motorists for the next five days to plan alternate routes, including the 10 and 60 freeways, which were heavier than normal but moving Thursday morning. Some could take the L Line (Gold) light-rail train.

In Duarte, similar to the quasi-closure in July, traffic began flooding in the morning onto Huntington Drive and Royal Oaks Drive, the latter a two-lane, east-west road lined by homes and a protected, dirt walking path used by walkers and bicycle riders.

Walking buddies Wanda White and Leslie Gallegos had that deja vu feeling on Thursday. As residents who live on Royal Oaks Drive, they remembered drivers using their street as an alternate to the 210 during the five days in July.

“Last time you couldn’t leave your house. We couldn’t pull out of our driveway,” said Gallegos.

This time, White could see the drivers glancing at their phones, presumably looking at directional apps to lead them around the gridlock.

They both worried about the afternoon commuters coming westbound from Los Angeles. That queue could back up to the 134 Freeway in west Pasadena and Eagle Rock, Menjivar said.

“This afternoon will be really bad for cars on the 210 going east,” Gallegos said. “That’s what we are dreading.”

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