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Four ways the 405 freeway project has not made your life better

Traffic is still bad on the 405, and the construction just won't end

After four years of lane closures, bulldozers, orange cones, and K-rails, the $1.1-billion 405 Freeway construction project was declared completed in May -- more or less.  

The big accomplishment:  The new 10-mile stretch of carpool lane on the northbound 405, carved out of the side of a mountain, was opened and destined to make your life better.  Has it? Of course not. 

OK, maybe here and there. 

Yes, the new untangled on and off ramps at Wilshire Boulevard now allow you to get off the freeway without having to pray for your life while crossing the traffic coming onto the freeway.  But here are the reasons that the construction has not made your life better:

1. Traffic is just as bad! I swear it’s worse.  

INRIX, the traffic monitoring firm, reported afternoon rush-hour speeds on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass have stayed constant -- or slowed some -- since the carpool lane was completed, according to a post on then-L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website in late October.   The firm monitored the freeway between the 10 and the 101 for two weeks during rush hour -- or, more aptly, the sludge hour when cars are simply stuck.  

The good news -- in a holistic sense-- is that the economy got better.  That’s why traffic isn’t budging. More people are on their way to more jobs.  Metro officials see the bright side -- imagine how bad the traffic would be if there were not the extra lane this year, they say…

2. Construction just won’t end. 

How can your life be better if it’s never finished? The so-called “punch list” -- a little electrical work, a little landscaping -- seems to go on and on.  You can hardly take a trip up or down the 405 in West L.A. without seeing the ominous “Second Ramp Closed” signs. 

Those construction workers are a little like Eldin, the painter working on Murphy Brown’s house on the hit '90s sitcom who never finished the job and stayed around so long he became her confidant.  (“Murphy Brown.” If you don’t know it, go check it out. It’s a classic. ) Not that I see many drivers stopping to chat up construction crew for advice.

3. Not all the new ramps are so fabulous, according to some drivers.

The on-ramp to the 405 at Skirball Center is configured at a steep angle with a sharp turn, reports a friend of mine who drives that ramp most weekdays. “Impossible to stay in your lane unless you are a stuntman,” he says.

4. And just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in…

All that roadblock fatigue over the endless 405 project (see #2) has sent us into post-construction stress disorder (PCSD) over yet another project that has cropped up on the Westside.  A new set of lane closures, K-rails and construction crews has sprouted like invasive ground cover along both sides of Wilshire Boulevard between Federal and Bonsall avenues.  It’s all part of a 12.5-mile Wilshire Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit project that will create a peak-hour bus lane on eastbound Wilshire.  In the process, they’re widening Wilshire in this area.  Which just means we can’t get to the newly widened 405 freeway unless we want to sit in the stalled traffic on the widening Wilshire Boulevard.  It will be done next year, the signs say. 

We can dream.


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