First published in the Nov. 13 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
More than a year and a half after work crews demolished it, a reconstructed Burbank Boulevard bridge is projected to reopen on Nov. 24.
Michael Comeaux, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, said that the date might change depending on weather or operational hiccups. Caltrans demolished the bridge in April 2020 as part of a project to widen the 5 Freeway with carpool lanes between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista Street.
The bigger bridge will accommodate the freeway’s new layout, expanding from a total of six lanes to 10 — three in each direction for vehicles traveling on Burbank Boulevard and two turn lanes in each direction toward the on-ramp.
The $355-million freeway widening project, which started construction in 2014 and is projected to conclude in the spring or summer of 2022, is itself the final piece of Caltrans’ 5 Freeway improvement initiative, which has replaced pavement and added carpool lanes. Widening the freeway, according to Comeaux, will help reduce congestion on the I-5 and allow drivers to remain in a carpool lane from Glendale to Santa Clarita.
“We need to encourage people to use carpool lanes, to do ridesharing, to use transit services, [which] get us away from one person per automobile,” he said.
The Burbank portion of the widening project, the product of a partnership between Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has faced multiple delays resulting from inclement weather, contractor disputes and other issues. Some city officials and community members have expressed frustration toward the yearslong series of street closures caused by the project, including an extended shutdown of the Empire Avenue interchange. The loss of the Burbank bridge also inhibited freeway access to the downtown area.
One reason the project has taken so long, Comeaux explained, was that Caltrans and Metro had to elevate a railroad crossing at Buena Vista Street. That process, which concluded in 2017, moved the tracks from ground level as a safety measure; the crossing had been one of Burbank’s deadliest.
Still, drivers have to wait for at least one more closure before they can once again use the Burbank Boulevard bridge. The area near Burbank Boulevard and Front Street is closed this weekend for bridge work but was scheduled to reopen by 6 a.m. Monday. The southbound 5 Freeway off-ramp on Burbank Boulevard was also projected to remain closed until Tuesday morning, and the northbound off-ramp was anticipated to be closed until Monday morning.
“We are extremely grateful to the community — residents, leaders, city leaders, businesses — for their understanding and their patience,” Comeaux said. “We recognize that it is challenging to have construction underway where you live and where you work, and we are looking forward to residents and workers and businesses in Burbank being able to benefit from these wonderful enhancements, which we hope will serve the public well for many, many years to come.”