Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project

Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project Title Image

Project Information

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. 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. 395 to the north of Cartago. The northbound and southbound lanes will be separated by a 100-foot unpaved median. A connector that will link the current highway to the expressway will be constructed at postmile 36.4, approximately one mile north of Lacey Lane.

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. 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.

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.

Click the map for a larger view.

Desert Tortoise Relocation Video

Joshua Tree Relocation Video

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.

For More Information 

Title VI

For Title VI information, click here: Caltrans Title VI

Project Updates

May 23, 2024 - Paving has resumed on the southern end of the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project after a winter suspension. Construction crews will aim to lay up to 120,000 tons of asphalt this year after they laid approximately 85,000 tons last year. The traffic switches currently in place at the north and south ends of the project area will remain in place throughout the summer and drivers can expect more traffic switches in the future. The project is estimated to complete construction in the fall of 2025. 

Paving crews lay asphalt on the Olancha Cartago Project.

November 6, 2023 - On the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project, pavement has finally arrived for the new lanes of U.S. 395 in Inyo County. Crews have been laying asphalt at the southern end of the project near Grant and Olancha. These images, taken 15 months apart at the same location, show the considerable progress made where a Southern Pacific Railroad track once existed. Construction crews will lay three layers of asphalt for the lanes and two for the shoulders. Crews have laid approximately 70,000 tons of asphalt to date.

Crews have begun paving on the south end of the Olancha Cartago Project.The railroad cut on the Olancha Cartago Project in 2022


December 16, 2022 - Work continues on the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project the to provide for the future lanes of U.S. Highway 395 in southern Inyo County. As seen in the picture, material will be moved from hills and placed in depressions to provide for a standard road design to provide motorists appropriate grades and ample sight distances all improving the functionality and safety of the roadway. Slopes will be contour graded to match the surrounding and revegetated for aesthetics.

earthwork at Olancha-Cartago

November 17, 2022 - Construction of the bridge decks over the Los Angeles Aqueduct is progressing on the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project. The photo below shows a Bidwell concrete screed spanning transversely across the deck formwork from the bridge rails. It will be used to ensure the concrete is placed at the correct location, depth and smoothness.

Bidwell acting as a screed

October 7, 2022 - Crews have begun work on the north end of the project near the town of Cartago in preparation for the new southbound lanes.

bulldozer clearing land

September 9, 2022 - On the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project, crews are installing concrete girders on the bridge over the Los Angeles Aqueduct using a 100-foot crane. There are 16 girders in all, eight for each bridge. The girders are preset with concrete and rebar. Each one has 24 pretensioned cables that create a negative camber; this is why the girder looks slightly bent when being installed. When the rest of the bridge is constructed and traffic flows over the bridge, the girders will straighten out but not be stressed.

bridge construction

Workers position a bridge girder into place

The southbound bridge is being constructed


August 5, 2022 - Bridge construction over the Los Angeles Aqueduct continues as part of the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project in southern Inyo County. On the north side of the aqueduct, the alignment of the future lanes of U.S. Highway 395 meets with the connector approximately one mile south of Pine Street in Cartago. The desert tortoise fence marks the edges of Caltrans Right of Way on both sides of the alignment. Crews will clear the land north of the connector at a later date. 

Olancha-Cartago Project - Los Angeles Aqueduct Photographed from Above by Drone

July 21, 2022 - This is a D10 bulldozer. Standing almost 15 feet tall and weighing more than 171,000 pounds, it is one of the primary machines used to clear the land, alongside smaller D6 bulldozers within the Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project. Equipped with a 11.5 foot wide blade in front and 4-5 foot ripper shanks in the back, the D10 bulldozer is a useful tool for dislodging granite boulders from the ground and pushing them, along with soil and other loose materials, into piles. This machine is shipped to job sites in three sections and must be assembled.

a pickup truck next to a bulldozer

behind a bulldozer

side view of a bulldozer

bulldozer pushing rock

July 7, 2022 

Rebar for bridge abutment

Crews are placing rebar on the footing for the bridge abutments and wingwalls on the south side of the Los Angeles aqueduct.

June 1, 2022 - Crews have completed excavation for the bridge abutments on the south side of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and will begin excavating the abutments on the north side. Drainage system installation continues throughout the project.

May 25, 2022 - Work continues on the installation of drainage culverts, preparation for bridge footings and the creation of access roads on the southern end of the project.

May 18, 2022 - Throughout the summer, the main worksite will be from on the southern end of the project area to the crossover about one mile south of Pine Street in Cartago. Crews are installing culverts throughout the project area.

The foundation for the bridge abutment over the Los Angeles Aqueduct is being prepared.

The foundation for the bridge abutment over the Los Angeles Aqueduct is being prepared.

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.


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