A long-awaited pedestrian bridge over the 5 Freeway, the final stretch of the Jeffrey Open Space Trail in Irvine, is expected to break ground in January.

The Jeffrey Open Space Trail stretches 3.5 miles, cutting through the center of the city adjacent to Jeffrey Road. The bridge, slated to be completed by late 2025 or early 2026, according to city manager Oliver Chi, is part of the 1.5-mile extension of the JOST that will run from Barranca Parkway to the 5 Freeway.

The walking and biking path will be approximately 1,200 feet long with a 15-foot wide enclosed walkway. It will also feature an LED deck and accent lighting in the nighttime.

“This is a crucial step in completing the JOST and linking trails that extend from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ana Mountains and Cleveland National Park,” said Darrell Hartman, the city’s senior civil engineer.

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When completed, the bicycle and pedestrian bridge will span the 5, the Jeffrey Road Park and Ride Lot off the freeway and Walnut Avenue south of Jeffrey Road. It will connect the gap between the northern Cypress Village Trail to the JOST extension, finally bringing to a close a project that’s been in the works for the past two decades.

The project completes the JOST and finishes the linkage to get over the 5, Chi said.

A separate project also in the works will extend the northernmost tip of the JOST, which stops at the southern end of Portola Parkway, all the way to the Gateway Preserve by way of another pedestrian bridge. Construction on that project is slated to begin next year as well.

“What you’ll be able to do is go from the northernmost tip of Irvine, which will be at the entry of the city’s northern Open Space location, all the way down to the Crystal Cove without ever having to cross the street,” Chi said. “It’s a fabulous piece of new infrastructure and a spectacular achievement for the community.”

The origin of the lush, scenic trail dates back to 1988, when Irvine voters approved the landmark Open Space Initiative to preserve 16,500 acres of undeveloped land, including the section that would later become the Jeffrey Open Space Trail. In 2001, residents collaborated with the Irvine Company to pick the woodsy and rolling terrain theme for the trail.

City leaders recently awarded a $23.1 million construction contract to Guy F. Atkinson Construction and approved a budget adjustment appropriating $3.7 million in Irvine Recovery Plan funding for the project. The $3.7 million price increase, according to a staff report, is due to Atkinson’s bid cost — the lowest of all bids — exceeding the adopted funding for the project by the increased amount.

The Irvine Recovery Fund has a sufficient balance for the additional funding request this fiscal year, according to the staff report.

The 5 Freeway bridge, Irvine’s 35th pedestrian bridge, has a total price tag of $30.6 million, including over $2 million in engineering costs paid to T.Y. Lin International, a global engineering firm that designed the bridge.

The city’s 34th pedestrian bridge, the Venta Spur bicycle-pedestrian bridge that spans over Route 133 between Woodbury East and the Great Park, was also worked on by T.Y. Lin.

The 305-foot-long Venta Spur bridge was opened to the public in December.

Approximately $15 million in funding for the pedestrian bridge over the 5 Freeway comes from both state and federal grants. A little over $5 million of that is from the Bicycle Corridor Improvement Program (BCIP) which provides federal funding to local agencies for bicycle and pedestrian projects, which, according to the Orange County Traffic Authority, reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality. The remaining $10 million is from state funding secured by Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, in 2021 for the completion of the JOST.