Ortega Highway closed between Lake Elsinore, Orange County for repairs

The Ortega Highway, which is the main travel route between Lake Elsinore and South Orange County, was shut down Thursday after a dent was found in the roadway.

For Natalie Martinez, her usual one-hour commute is now four hours.

"It's just a hassle. I have to go to Mission Viejo, I go to school every day. So I have to drive around Lake Elsinore, up the 91, down the toll road," she said.

Caltrans crews discovered the dent in the roadway, and officials with the agency said the recent storms washed away sediment, which left a void underneath a portion of the roadway.

"No. 1, the road itself is not stable, and also the sediment that washed out, washed out over the embankment, which makes the embankment not stable either," said Jocelyn Whitfield, with Caltrans District 12.

Caltrans brought in its engineers to assess how much damage has been done to the highway. Many people are dependent on the road to get to and from Orange County, Jeff Allen included. He said he is preparing for an ultra marathon, and the highway was his training ground.

"I have some friends getting ready to put on a race up here next weekend, so I don't know if that's going to affect the status of the race or not," he said.

With the highway inaccessible in both directions, drivers can expect lengthy detours. There is no time estimate on when the Ortega Highway will reopen. Caltrans said experts are still looking over the damage.
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