Despite challenges, I-405 progress continues

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Relocating utilities has been a major challenge during the 405 widening project.

On Thursday, Metro staff gave a progress report to the Metro Board’s Construction Committee on the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.  Project staff reported that the mega project has overcome some mega challenges over the last three years as it works to improve the I-405 freeway and add a northbound carpool lane between West L.A. and the San Fernando Valley.

Project managers say the project is now two-thirds complete and that they will continue to open the project in phases to ensure the traveling public has safe access to significant improvements as soon as they’re ready for use.

With three years of major construction now completed, the project team has achieved a substantial amount of work to date, including new Wilshire on and off-ramps, a new and wider Sunset Bridge, I-10 interchange improvements, Sepulveda Boulevard improvements and a new on-ramp at Skirball.

By the end of the year, the project anticipates completing all bridges and utility work will be nearly complete with project ramps, underpasses, soundwalls and retaining walls.

There have been issues that have slowed the pace of construction, added costs and extended the ultimate completion for parts of the project. Metro estimates that the cost of the freeway improvements project will be higher primarily due to previously unknown but required utility relocation work.

Rebuilding the Wilshire on- and off-ramps is a big part of the 405 project. Photo by Metro.

Rebuilding the Wilshire on- and off-ramps is a big part of the 405 project. Photo by Metro.

Project partners are confident they can open the bookends of the project as soon as they’re completed, but the project’s middle section between Montana Avenue and Sunset Boulevard has proven to be the project’s greatest challenge.

The project team has shifted Sepulveda Boulevard to the east in this area to make room for the widened freeway. Major utilities required relocation — with extreme street congestion limiting the duration and sequence of needed work. Other mitigations have been needed for sound walls and retaining walls in the area. Nearby homeowners have suffered the brunt of major construction impacts. Consequently, this part of the project is now anticipated to be completed in mid-2014.

Here’s a summary of the project’s status presented at the committee meeting:

  • The project team has much greater visibility to actions needed to complete the project.
  • Sepulveda Boulevard has been used as a major utility corridor between West L.A. and the San Fernando Valley for 60 years. The project has had to identify, relocate or have the utility owner relocate numerous major utilities, some of which were not adequately included in utility documents at the start of construction. Work had to be conducted in such a way as to not bring street traffic on Sepulveda to a complete standstill.
  • Local drainage, change work and contractor retaining wall issues also impacted the project. A 12’ x 12’ county culvert box not shown on preliminary engineering plans has required extensive mitigation efforts.
  • Needed right-of-ways with several property owners along the 405, including the federal General Services Administration (which oversees the VA Hospital) and Getty have taken considerably longer than anticipated to acquire.

Even with delays, the project is being constructed using the Design-Build delivery method, which accelerates construction by seven years compared with the traditional delivery method in which design must be completely finished before construction starts. Metro will be able to deliver a much improved I-405 to the public years sooner, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs and travel delays.

11 replies

  1. I drive the 405 from the 101 daily and i’m amazed at what I see being built, truly genious, especially bridge and overpass construction, congratulations!

  2. A 12′ x 12′ foot box culvert! I assume that is used as a storm drain? During dry spells, we could convert it into a bus tunnel! Seriously, I’m kidding.

  3. what a waste of money for essentially and extra lane of freeway that will be filled shortly after opening. That money could have gone along way to many other projects.

  4. This is a complete waste of money – the lane will be filled to capacity by the 2nd week it is finally opened – and after all these construction headaches, we just end up in the same situation. Why couldn’t the geniuses at Metro come up with a RAIL alternative to this boondoggle? Again, Metro is such a hypocritical agency: let’s spend billions on a rail system but also use that money for auto “improvements” so that transit will NEVER be a viable option.

  5. WHY does Metro even have a “Highways Department”??? Do you not see how you’re just shooting your foot with that? Metro should be concentrating on all the great potential transit projects in the Long Range Plan and stop pouring more asphalt – when will you guys learn that pouring more asphalt does nothing to “ease congestion” as you claim this, and other highway projects, will do.

  6. Mark, there are many more aspects to the project than just an ‘extra lane’. These include, but are not limited to: center medians that are wider (this will prevent any stalled vehicle from completely blocking the carpool lane and will get the freeway back to ‘code’), wider shoulder on the right side (again this will help when breakdowns occur, it will allow passage of emergency vehicles, and get the freeway back to code), all of the reconfigured on and off ramps (These will have positive impacts on the surface streets in the area and the freeway. They will allow cars to be off of the surface streets while queueing for the freeway and will lessen the need to ‘dump’ the on ramp traffic without metering it. The effects of some of these can already be seen in the freeway.), and as part of that (IIRC) longer merge lanes for these on and off ramps.

    The I-5 project from the 134 through the 118 is adding a lane, doing ramp work, and the merge lane work. As a driver of both of those freeways, I can tell you that the merge lane improvements will be a major help on both, especially parts of the 5. The ramp improvements may seem minor, but will help traffic a lot. They take into account the change in traffic flow patterns in the years since the freeway was built and other factors. Metered on ramps with enough capacity to handle the cars that are getting on helps street traffic -and- freeway traffic.

  7. Voice of Reason,

    You do realize that it is not up to the MTA on how to spend this money. If Metro wasn’t managing the project, then Caltrans would be. Congress doesn’t let you choose to take road money of which there is a huge amount and spend it on rail (where there is little). Like it or not, we live in a country that is hostile to rail but very pro-highway and that is how they fund things.

  8. The ramps are great. The one extra lane won’t change anything, but that wasn’t the point. People got jobs and The Valley will get toll and maybe bus lanes.

    What may have been nice, is express lanes that switch direction with traffic. That would have added two-four lanes in each direction without merging traffic and Metro could charge a hefty premium for the privilege. Other freeways with far less traffic then Sepulveda have had them for decades. That or mass transit would have been nice. LACMTA has their engineers and politics, but I believe that this was a wasted billion dollar opportunity.

  9. The 405 widening is a fully Federal funded project that otherwise would not have been done. The money was there, so Metro took it. The 405 HOV lane was a long wanted project, but absolutely no money to do it, that is until Federal money for HOV projects became available. The money could not have been used for other than HOV projects. The 405 was among the last sections of freeway without HOV and with this project now comes closer to the goal of all freeway in LA county having HOV.
    Further, MTA is responsible for ALL transportation or all FORMS of transportation in LA County, including roads. This is proper, correct and means that with one agency responsible for all forms of transportation, there is better thought given to transit connections and impacts.