The dreaded shutdown of 12 miles of the eastbound 60 Freeway is underway.
About 10 p.m. Friday, July 26, Caltrans workers closed all eastbound lanes from the 15 Freeway in Jurupa Valley to the 60-91-215 interchange in Riverside. The move left the eastbound side of the freeway eerily empty.
Caltrans officials said the lanes would be shut 55 straight hours — until 5 a.m. Monday, July 29.
The view east of the empty eastbound 60 Freeway, right, from the 15 Freeway to the eastbound 60 interchange. Caltrans launched the first of 15 all-weekend closures of one side of the 60 on Friday night, July 26. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)The view west of the empty eastbound 60 Freeway, from the 15 Freeway to the eastbound 60 interchange. Caltrans launched the 60 Swarm construction project Friday night, July 26. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsCaltrans closes the southbound 15 Freeway ramp to the eastbound 60 Friday night, July 26, as the 60 Swarm begins. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said the closure is occurring on schedule. Through eastbound traffic is blocked at Milliken Avenue, cars are taking ramps to go both north and south on the 15 Freeway, she said.
Caltrans traffic engineer Scott Hongkham said the backup on the eastbound 60 stretches from Milliken to Vineyard Avenue in Ontario.
“Usually at the beginning there are some slowdowns,” he said, adding that the jam should ease now that the traffic is being diverted onto the 15.
Drivers traveling east through the Inland Empire are urged to take parallel freeways — the 91, 10 or 210 — to get around the closure.
The other side of the 60 Freeway — the westbound side — is open, Caltrans officials said, and drivers may use those lanes to reach retail outlets, restaurants and friends’ homes in the area.
The closure is enabling Caltrans to tackle a $134.5 million project that aims to replace cracked pavement with new concrete slabs, and repave freeway exits and entrances. The pavement is 60 years old, and swelling truck traffic out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has been exacting a toll.
Caltrans’ logo for the 15-weekend shutdown of the 60 Freeway — in one direction at a time — between Ontario and Riverside. The project got underway late Friday, July 26. (Courtesy of Caltrans)
So Caltrans intends not only to put a new, smooth surface on the road, but also to strengthen it. Joe McLoughlin, owner of project contractor J. McLoughlin Engineering of Rancho Cucamonga, said the 9-inch-deep pavement will be replaced with concrete 16 inches thick.
During this first weekend of the project, workers plan to pave the 60 at Valley Way in Jurupa Valley, said Ashraf Mohamed, a Caltrans senior transportation engineer.
Dubbed “60 Swarm,” the shutdown continues a trend that began with the “Carmageddon” closure of the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles eight years ago. Since then, transportation agencies have increasingly used full freeway closures to speed up construction projects despite the headaches such shutdowns create. Who could forget the 91 Freeway shutdown in Corona a few years ago?
The 60 Swarm is different from those previous closures because it’s taking place over 15 weekends between now and Thanksgiving. After resurfacing eastbound lanes, crews intend to turn around and repave the westbound side of the 60.
While the freeway closures should have the biggest impact, related work in the area also will delay drivers.
Caltrans is repaving some, but not all, of the 60 Freeway lanes west of the 15 in Ontario. And bridges at Pipeline Avenue, Monte Vista Avenue and Benson Avenue in Chino are being replaced.
Those projects will trigger nighttime, partial-freeway closures throughout the week over a much longer period — through fall 2021 — and across a wider stretch of the freeway, from Euclid Avenue to the 60-91-215 interchange, officials said.
Kasinga said the multitude of projects is what gave birth to the 60 Swarm name.
“There is just a swarm of projects happening all at one time in one area,” Kasinga said.
During the first hour of Friday night’s closure, CHP Capt. John Tyler said it was too early to tell if drivers were heeding warnings to stay off the 60.
“During the day more people are out and about,” he said, adding that officials will have a better gauge on how well their message was received during the day on Saturday.
Avoiding the area altogether is still the best advice, Tyler said.
“We have been preaching that quite a bit.”