Work begins on final leg of 405 Freeway’s northbound carpool lane
Construction began Friday on the last leg of a carpool lane for the northbound San Diego Freeway through western Los Angeles, a $1-billion project designed to ease congestion on one of the busiest traffic corridors in the nation.
Officials for the California Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority say the additional lane will reduce delays on the north side of the 405 Freeway and allow motorists to travel continuously in a carpool lane from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley. Stretching 72 miles, it will be the longest high-occupancy-vehicle lane in the country.
The new lane will run 10 miles from the 10 Freeway north to the 101 Freeway interchange. Plans call for new on- and offramps, bridge construction, 18 miles of retaining walls and widening the busy Sepulveda Pass area. Completion of the project is scheduled for spring 2013.
“This is the most congested freeway section in the nation,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said at a groundbreaking ceremony along the 405. “With the federal stimulus, we can finally move forward with this project. The money is the shot in the arm we needed.” About $190 million of construction money will come from economic stimulus money established by Congress and President Obama. The freeway work is expected to create about 18,000 jobs.
The governor appeared with an entourage of state and local officials, including Caltrans Director Will Kempton and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Every day, motorists make about 300,000 trips on the 405 Freeway through the Westside, while more than 500,000 drivers converge daily on the 405-101 interchange, one of the most heavily used in the country.
The 405 is a principal route for those traveling from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside, Los Angeles International Airport, the South Bay and Orange County. The highway’s northbound carpool lanes are complete except for the stretch between the 10 and 101 freeways.
Workers are also finishing a section of the southbound carpool lanes between the 90 and the 10.
“We’ve got to do something about this gridlock,” Villaraigosa said. “We’ve got to invest in getting more people into each car. . . . This is what this project will do.”
MTA officials estimate that the project will cost $1.034 billion. The authority’s board awarded Kiewit Pacific Co. the construction contract in late April.
The project has enough money from local, state and federal sources to continue work for 15 months. MTA officials are concerned that $662 million in state funding might not be available in time to keep the project on schedule. If the lane is not finished on time, they say, MTA could lose more than $200 million in federal funds.
Kempton said $48 million from the state Traffic Congestion Relief Program is guaranteed for the project and will be provided when needed. The balance of $614 million is expected to come from the sale of transportation bonds approved by voters in November 2006.
H.D. Palmer, deputy director of the state Department of Finance, said the state would issue more bonds when the carpool lane and other transportation projects need more money to keep construction going. The state sells bonds as needed to avoid paying more interest than necessary.
Palmer said the sale of state transportation bonds has gone well lately despite the recession. In April, he said, two issues of state transportation bonds raised $13.34 billion, more than expected.
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