Empire interchange

City of Burbank and Caltrans officials toss some dirt for the media during groundbreaking of the I-5/Empire Project at the corner of Buena Vista and San Fernando Rd. in Burbank on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / May 30, 2014)

Construction began Wednesday on the $355 million Empire interchange project on the Golden State (5) Freeway, which includes more than four miles of new carpool lanes on the freeway and construction of a new interchange at Empire Avenue.

Slated to be completed in March 2018, the project includes adding two miles of carpool lanes in each direction between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista Street and reconstructing the Burbank Boulevard overcrossing, according to the California Department of Transportation.

Caltrans will also raise the railroad tracks next to Empire Avenue, as well as at Buena Vista Street and San Fernando Boulevard, “making significant improvements to freeway access and efficiency,” said Carrie Bowen, Caltrans District 7 director, in a statement.

“Motorists will no longer be forced to take a longer route to reach their destination, and the net result will be less congestion on the freeway and local streets,” Bowen said.

Also, as part of the project, a half-mile stretch of San Fernando Boulevard that runs under the 5 Freeway has been closed permanently so it can be realigned directly with Empire Avenue. There will be a new undercrossing at Empire that is expected to be completed in mid-2017.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is funding the majority of the project to the tune of $264 million, while the rest comes from the state.

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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