Memorial Day traffic is projected to be the second-highest on record starting Friday in the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond as travelers begin to hit the roads.
To improve traffic flow, this week Caltrans opened a fourth northbound lane on the 5 Freeway near Santa Clarita, according to Michael Comeaux, public information officer for Caltrans.
The fourth lane opened Wednesday in a work zone where crews continue constructing new concrete pavement along 17 miles of I-5, Comeaux said.
In a recent report, the American Automobile Association (AAA) forecasted that nearly 43 million Americans are expected to start their summers on a high note with a Memorial Day weekend getaway.
This long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer vacation season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000, trailing only the bar set in 2005.
Overall, an additional 1.5 million more people will take to the nation’s roads, rails and runways compared with last year, a 3.6 percent increase.
Of the 43 million projected travelers, 37.6 million of those are expected to travel by car, the most drivers on record for Memorial Day and 3.5 percent more than last year, according to AAA.
Just in time for #MemorialDay2019 travel, northbound I-5 in the construction zone in #Castaic (north of #SantaClarita in #LACounty) is back to its previous layout w/ 4 northbound lanes open, and the temporary bypass/crossover lane removed. https://t.co/WsEIi3w9RH pic.twitter.com/kUe2IYwWik
— Caltrans District 7 (@CaltransDist7) May 24, 2019
More than a million vehicles travel on the 5 Freeway through the Santa Clarita Valley each week, with more than 200,000 vehicles traveling through the valley every day on average, according to Comeaux.
Caltrans announced Friday that the fourth northbound lane on 5 Freeway in Castaic had been reopened in preparation for the weekend.
“We certainly hope that this will avoid a repeat of the severe congestion and related problems of Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Comeaux said. “Caltrans worked very hard with the contractor to make to sure that the lane was open before the holiday.”
As part of the report, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times could be as high as three times longer than an average trip.
For the 37.6 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
“By opening the fourth northbound lane we are very hopeful that traffic moves smoothly, nevertheless we will expect to see high congestion in all areas of our state highway system on the I-5, Highway 14, and other interstate highways and highways throughout California,” Comeaux said.
According to Comeaux, construction crews will be continuing to install new concrete over a 17 mile stretch of the 5 freeway from half a mile south of the 5 Freeway and Highway 14 interchange to two miles north of Lake Hughes Road.
Some of the concrete being replaced by construction crews over that 17 miles has been on the roadway for as long as 50 years, according to Comeaux.
“Drivers in the most congested metros should expect much worse conditions than normal,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst, INRIX. “Travelers should anticipate delays to start on Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day. Our advice to drivers is to avoid the morning and evening commuting times or plan alternate routes.”
In addition to highlighting May 24 as the worst day to travel in Los Angeles, the report specified 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. are the worst times of day to travel.
Caltrans suggests that travelers prioritize road safety above all else, and plan for the worst when it comes to routes, weather, and even mechanical issues. Putting away cell phones, and other distractions, wearing a seatbelt, and ensuring that vehicles are in good condition can go a long way towards dealing with any unplanned eventualities on the road.
“Plan plenty of time to get to your destination, and don’t make yourself frantic and then get into an emotional state, which can lead to dangerous situations,” Comeaux said. “Keep an eye on the weather conditions that would cause a nice day to suddenly turn into a rainstorm, and be aware of the weather up ahead.”
Residents are encouraged to visit the Caltrans QuickMap website, which also has a free app available on Google Play for Android and the App Store for Apple products.
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