Olancha-Cartago 4 Lane Project


Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project Title Image

Project Map    Desert Tortoise Fence Project     Project Timeline    For More Information 

Project Information

Project Updates

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), as CEQA lead agency, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), as NEPA lead agency with the support of Inyo County Local Transportation Commission, will convert approximately 12.6 miles of the existing U.S. Highway 395 in Olancha and Cartago from a two-lane conventional highway into a four-lane expressway from postmile 29.2 to postmile 41.8 in Inyo County.

The Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Expressway project will pass west of the town of Olancha and the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Once the alignment crosses Olancha Creek, the project will cross the Los Angeles Aqueduct and continue north through Cartago along the existing highway to meet up with the four-lane section of U.S. Highway 395 to the north of Cartago. The northbound and southbound lanes will be separated by a 100-foot unpaved median.

The project will increase roadway safety, close the gap between existing four-lane sections to the north and south, meet present and future vehicular and goods movement traffic demands, and bring the highway up to current design standards. It will include features such as new 10-foot shoulders, new at-grade intersections, two new structures over the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and a new non-motorized multi-use undercrossing. 

U.S. Highway 395 is a Priority Interregional Highway in the Caltrans Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan, part of the National Network of truck routes, and included in the Caltrans Highway Freight Network. The highway is vital to the economy of the Eastern Sierra region and is one of five major recreational corridors identified for Southern California.

March 23, 2022 – Crews finished clearing and grubbing the land from the connector between the new highway and the existing roadway in Cartago, approximately one mile south of Pine Street.

March 14, 2022 – Crews finished clearing and grubbing the land from the south end of the project to Walker Creek Road. The term “clearing and grubbing” refers to the process of clearing plants, rocks, boulders, and removing debris to prepare the land for the new road.  

February 23, 2022 – Crews finished relocating 149 Joshua Trees within the project area. Most trees were transplanted only 20-30 feet from their original location using a tree spade. They will be watered twice throughout the summer to ensure their survival. A video depiction of the transplant process is in production, with an anticipated release date of May 20, 2022.

January 31, 2022: Following the completion of the fence, construction began on the main Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project.

November 2021: Construction crews completed work on the Desert Tortoise Fence. This project is a precursor to the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Expressway Project, designed to minimize the impact of construction on the desert tortoise.

Project Map

Map detailing the new route for U.S. 395 through the Olancha-Cartago area. The project will begin at postmile 29.20 and end at postmile 41.80. The new route will require a new bridge be built over the Los Angeles Aquaduct.

Desert Tortoise Fence Project

Three images of the Desert Tortoise Fence for the Olancha Cartago Project

Crews completed work on the Desert Tortoise Fence Project prior to the start of construction on the main Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project. The fence project was designed to minimize the impact of construction on the desert tortoise, a State and Federally recognized threatened species. Before constructing the fence, Caltrans biologists spent two years documenting and monitoring desert tortoises that were within the project area.

Following completion of the fence, a team of highly trained desert tortoise biologists—approved by both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the US Fish and Wildlife Service--relocated tortoises found within the project right-of-way to pre-determined burrows on the other side of the fence. Each tortoise was moved within its existing home range, which is within 1000’ of its original location. All survey and relocation efforts conducted by Caltrans were done under appropriate State and Federal permits and protocols.

Caltrans biologists will continue to monitor the desert tortoises as necessary throughout the construction phase of the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project.

Project Timeline 

Project schedule (Subject to change):

  • December 6, 2008: Caltrans Hosts Public Meeting on Olancha-Cartago Project.
  • October 21, 2010: Public Comment Period on Proposed Negative Declaration and Initial Study/Environmental Assessment.
  • September 23, 2015: Caltrans Hosts Public Hearing on Draft Environmental Impact Report at the Olancha Fire Station.
  • May 2017: Environmental Document (EI/RA) approved.
  • November 2021: Construction of Desert Tortoise Fence Completed.
  • January 31, 2022 - Main Construction Begins.

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