Construction begins on I-5 carpool lanes

Officials on Wednesday broke ground on a $57.8-million project to build carpool lanes in both directions of the Golden State (5) Freeway from the Ventura (134) Freeway to Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank.

It’s part a larger project that, when completed, will result in continuous carpool lanes from the 134 Freeway to the Antelope Valley.

The latest project will build 2.7 miles of carpool lanes in each direction, said Mike Miles, director of District 7 for the California Department of Transportation. Sound and retaining walls will also be constructed.

Construction will cause intermittent closures of lanes and on- and off-ramps until the project is completed in late 2014, officials said.

At the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Miles said the section of I-5 from the 134 Freeway to Magnolia Boulevard is one of the busiest stretches of freeway in Southern California, accommodating an average of 250,000 vehicles each day.

The corridor is also a prominent route for moving goods out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, he said, and provides the critical north-south link that runs from Mexico to Canada.

“The I-5 is the backbone of the state’s transportation system,” Miles said. “It helps power the economic engine that drives California.”

The I-5 also connects major employment centers in Santa Clarita and the San Fernando Valley with Los Angeles.

Typically, using the carpool lane can save one minute per mile of travel time, Miles said.

“To put that in perspective, if your daily commute is about 25 miles, over the course of a week, you’ll save two hours. If you look at that on a yearly basis, it’s almost four days,” he said.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is paying for the project with local Prop C funds generated through sales taxes.

During the work on the I-5, safety will always be a priority, said Bill Dance, Altadena Area Commander of the California Highway Patrol.

“Over the years, numerous Caltrans workers and CHP officers have been injured and even killed after being struck by vehicles on the side of the freeway while performing their duties,” Dance said.

Last year, three CHP officers were killed by passing vehicles while on traffic stops.

This carpool project is one of several on the I-5 between the 134 Freeway and the Kern County line.

Caltrans is also constructing carpool lanes between the Ronald Reagan (118) and the Hollywood (170) freeways, and then between the 170 and Buena Vista Street. Direct carpool connectors at the I-5 and State Route 14, and I-5 and 170 Freeway interchanges and improving the Western Avenue interchange are also planned.

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