Beach Blvd. closure a headache for O.C.

BUENA PARK, Calif. Officials say more than 50,000 vehicles travel the /*Buena Park*/ section of /*Beach Boulevard*/ every day. Those vehicles have to find alternate routes around a new street closure. Businesses caught in the middle are staying open despite the closure.

Workers at the Teacher Supplies store in Buena Park wish it was business as usual, but just outside major work is under way.

"It's nosier," said store owner Johnnie Lundvall. "We get a lot of pounding noises and shaking in here -- it feels like were having an earthquake all the time."

Construction has closed a section of Beach Blvd. crossing the Interstate 5 Freeway, forcing more than 50,000 drivers who come through here each day to find another route. The construction is part of the /*Gateway Project*/ that started in 2006, costing more than $300 million to widen I-5 from three to five lanes in each direction. The latest phase started Monday.

"There are some railroad tracks which parallel the I-5 just south of the freeway," said Art Leahy, /*Orange County Transportation Authority*/ chief executive officer. "We have to raise those tracks up to accommodate the new bridge. That means we have to close Beach Boulevard for around three weeks."

For the next few weeks a short section of Beach Blvd. will remain closed, from Auto Center Dr. to 9th St., making it hard for businesses like the Buena Park Honda dealership.

"It's been difficult," said Judi Seer-Kjetland, Buena Park Honda. "Our customers have trouble getting access to our dealership. Sometimes they don't even think were open during the construction."

Officials say businesses are open while Beach Blvd. is closed. At the car dealership, it means workers must constantly wash new cars on the lot, removing dirt left by construction.

"You can't wash them enough times during the day," said Seer-Kjetland.

"We're hoping it will be open as soon as possible," said Lundvall. "It has slowed down our business quite a bit."

The Beach Blvd. closure will last three weeks, but the entire freeway-widening project won't be finished until 2010. Businesses hope it will be worth it in the long term.

"Hopefully it'll free up traffic on the freeway, people won't be as frustrated getting to this area to look at the cars," said Seer-Kjetland.

Drivers can get around the closed Beach Blvd. bridge by using Western or Stanton avenues.

This section of Beach Blvd. is scheduled to reopen January 26.



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