Caltrans stormwater project set to tangle traffic at Main Beach until Memorial Day

The California Department of Transportation is planning to start a box culvert project at the Village Mart gas station near Broadway and South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, tentatively in September, as depicted here as a conceptual graphic.

Caltrans is scheduled to start a months-long partial closure of South Coast Highway between Broadway and Ocean Avenue on April 1.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction for the duration of construction, which is slated to wrap by Memorial Day, May 31. Crews are constructing a new box culvert that allows stormwater to empty into the Pacific Ocean at Main Beach.

“We’re going to be monitoring them closely,” Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf said. “They are going to have some traffic control people on [South Coast Highway] and we’ll be augmenting with city traffic control staff.”

The box culvert that runs under South Coast Highway at Main Beach carries stormwater from Downtown Laguna and is necessary to prevent properties from flooding, city officials said in a press release. The culvert is 100 years old and the concrete inside is crumbling, exposing corroded rebar.

Exposed rebar inside the underground culvert that is set to be replaced starting April 1. Photo courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

Caltrans will entirely close Coast Highway between Broadway and Ocean Avenue from 8 p.m. on March 31 until 6:30 a.m. on April 1. Vehicles will be directed onto a detour that includes Ocean Avenue, Beach Street, and Broadway.

Caltrans’s contractor will work double shifts as necessary to meet the goal of completing the work and reopening all traffic lanes by Memorial Day. Downtown traffic control will be provided seven days per week to mitigate the impact of the long-term lane closures.

Parking on Coast Highway between Broadway and Ocean will be restricted but adjacent businesses will open during construction.

The temporary loss of parking and exhaust from more idling vehicles are a one-two punch for a row of businesses in the 100 block of South Coast Highway, said Heidi Miller, owner of Tight Assets and World Newsstand. During there pandemic, retailers were restricted to curbside service only for months and now they’re limited to 25% capacity, Miller said.

“It’s just sad that it’s inching down to Memorial Day Weekend,” Miller said. “The government shut us down for three months [because of COVID-19].”

She’s grateful for a $2,000 grant from the second round of the city-funded LB Cares program.

Despite the temporary construction headaches, the 42-year resident is grateful the project is moving forward because she experienced significant damage at both of her stores in the last flood.

“I want that culvert done and I’m 100 percent supportive of that it needs to be done,” she said. “Is there a good time? Depending on who you ask, there’s probably never a good time.”

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