El Toro Y

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El Toro "Y"
El Toro Interchange, The "Y"
El Toro Y Photo D Ramey Logan.jpg
Aerial view of the El Toro Y
Irvine, California
Coordinates33°38′41″N 117°44′07″W / 33.6446°N 117.7353°W / 33.6446; -117.7353
Roads at
Maintained byCaltrans

The El Toro "Y" is a freeway interchange in southern Orange County, California where the Santa Ana Freeway, Interstate 5 (I-5), and the San Diego Freeway (at that point the I-405) merge. South of the El Toro Y, the highway is named the "San Diego Freeway" with the highway designation "I-5." Located in south Orange County where the cities of Lake Forest, Laguna Hills, and Irvine converge, the interchange was named after the nearby city (El Toro - now Lake Forest) and the now-closed Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, located northeast of the interchange.

The "Y" is one of the busiest interchanges in the world; from 1975 to 2002, daily traffic surged from 102,000 to 356,000 vehicles a day.[1]

The "Y" was where American broadcast reporter Zoey Tur of KCBS-TV, via news helicopter, first located and broadcast O.J. Simpson's white Ford Bronco slow-speed police chase exclusively for 22 minutes on June 17, 1994.[2]


By the early 1990s, the El Toro Y had become one of the most congested freeway interchanges in the world, its severe overcrowding fed by a housing boom in southern Orange County.

In November 1990, Orange County voters approved Measure M, a half-cent increase in the county sales tax to finance transportation improvements. In 1993, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began a massive expansion project,[3] adding a new interchange and collector/distributor roads at Bake Parkway (signed as truck bypass lanes) and Lake Forest Drive, and carpool lanes and connectors.[4] The $166-million project also vastly increased regular traffic lanes. The project increased the number of vehicles per day from 300,000 to 400,000.[4] After the project was completed in 1997, the El Toro Y stood as one of the widest roads in the world, at 26 traffic lanes wide.

The traffic delays at the interchange sparked the construction of several parallel bypass toll roads. The San Joaquin Hills Toll Road, designated State Route 73 (SR 73), opened in November 1996 and connects San Juan Capistrano and Costa Mesa. Another parallel road to the El Toro Y is SR 241, the Foothill Toll Road, which is planned to include a southern extension known as "Los Patrones Parkway" that will end near SR 74.

Originally, the route was supposed to connect to I-5 in northern San Diego County, but local opposition regarding environmental issues near Trestles have put the project on hold. In 2017, the Transportation Corridor Agencies considered extending this route to San Clemente. However, residents opposed the proposed route because it would have cost $2 billion, would have intersected at the busiest interchange in San Clemente, Avenida Pico, would have demolished many new homes with real estate value, would have been constructed next to a high school, and would waste taxpayers’ money because the interchange had undergone improvements between 2015 and 2018. Local residents also say that traffic would be worse, equivalent to the SR 91 and SR 241 interchange.[5]

The Irvine Spectrum Center, a large shopping center featuring a movie theater, numerous shopping destinations and a large obelisk, which conceals a cell phone and television tower inside of it, is in the cleft of the Y.

On July 29, 2008, a moderate earthquake centered in Chino Hills caused damage to an expansion joint on one of the overpasses in the interchange. Caltrans closed the 5 Southbound Truck Bypass/Bake Parkway/Lake Forest exit to replace the expansion joint that was damaged during the quake.[6]

In popular culture

The El Toro Y was referenced the 2011 episode "Angry Dad: the Movie" of the animated sitcom The Simpsons, when Bart gives Homer a list of "Must-See Attractions" in Los Angeles.[7]

In the second episode of The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, it was initially reported that O. J. Simpson was spotted in Al Cowlings's Ford Bronco on Interstate 405 at Irvine Center Drive at the El Toro Y. However, the scenes were shot elsewhere in Los Angeles.


  1. ^ Weikel, Dan (July 5, 2004). "The Road More Heavily Traveled". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ O.J.: Made in America, retrieved 2020-05-10. Episode 3, 00:27:47: "We're listening to the Los Angeles Police Department, and they believe that this vehicle is somewhere in the vicinity of the El Toro 'Y,' and I look down below and there's the El Toro 'Y.' And there's a white Bronco. Then there's a sheriff's unit, and then there's another sheriff's unit, and another sheriff's unit. We get the door open, and we get our very first shots, and I'm back on the two-way radio telling CBS 'You got to get us on the air; we found him!' And, with a flip of a switch, we were on with Dan Rather. We were on the air exclusively for 22 minutes..." - Zoey Tur
  3. ^ Romero, Fernando (Dec 22, 1993). "Widening Work Begins on Crowded El Toro 'Y'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2014-04-16.
  4. ^ a b Messina, Frank (1997-03-16). "End Is in Sight for Construction at the El Toro Y". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2019-10-31. Retrieved 2019-09-18.
  5. ^ Robinson, Alicia (2018-03-02). "San Clemente officials argue proposed toll road extension would cost $2 billion, make traffic worse". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on 2018-03-02. Retrieved 2019-09-18.
  6. ^ Irving, Doug (July 29, 2008). "O.C. Quake Roundup: Cal State Fullerton damaged; trains disrupted for a bit". Orange County Register.
  7. ^ Wride, Nancy (Feb 23, 2011). "'The Simpsons' Puts the El Toro Y on the Map ... Finally". The Patch. Archived from the original on 2020-11-12. Retrieved September 17, 2019.

External links