Transcript of web chat with chief of Sepulveda Pass Widening Project

Mike Barbour

Metro held a live web chat yesterday with Mike Barbour, the chief of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, which is adding a carpool lane on the northbound 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways, among other improvements.

Barbour fielded questions from readers. The transcript is below — and here’s a link to the introduction in which Barbour offers some traffic tips and says that working on the 405 while keeping it open to traffic is like “performing heart surgery on a patient while she runs a marathon.”


Good morning, Mike. Thanks for hosting today’s live chat. Let’s start out with a question a lot of people have been asking: If reconstruction on the Sunset Bridge isn’t going to start until late June, why did you begin reconfiguring traffic in May?

To begin major demolition, we had to create work areas on the bridge, gain access to the interior of the bridge wood falsework, pipes, and electrical ducts. We had to start early to determine the extent of these interior items and have time to plan the pre-demolition work.

My path of travel (Sunday June 13, 2010) is 10 west, Lincoln Blvd North to the canyon for family visit. On June 13, is there any project work that would have an impact on the path I use. I don’t drive these parts at all unless I make a visit like this maybe 2, 3 times a year. I don’t want to be late for the baptism, so I am asking in advance. Thanks Mr. Barbour.

The limits of our project are from National Bl north to Ventura Bl, basically, so our construction work should not affect your travel. The I-405 project website contains construction updates each workday, so you might want to check that on the day of your trip.

Is there any update on what type of rapid transit will be going through the Sepulveda Pass corridor? Light rail, bus rapid transit, subway tunnel? — Carter Rubin

Measure R provides $1 billion for rapid transit option to improve traffic flow between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley through the Sepulveda Pass along the I-405 freeway corridor. There has been no decision on what type of transit will be utilized at this point for this corridor. This project is in the very early planning stages.

Why do your Detour Maps not show the Days and Times that the constructions are in effect? Maps are no use without that information. Michael Fujita Getty Center Volunteer

The maps are posted to give the project neighbors an idea of planned detours and advanced notice of upcoming work. The exact dates will be posted when we receive confirmation from the contractor when work will start.

When evaluating this project have you considered any sustainable/environmentally friendly alternatives? And if yes, which ones.

The current team was not part of the project design, but we have integrated a number of sustainable activities into our construction. We will be reusing materials from the bridge demolitions, which will eliminate tons of material from reaching landfills. The HOV lane, itself, is a way of applying sustainable principles to our transportation system.

I want to know if it will be effective for the bus? I ride 761 bus to Westwood and I want to know if there’s going to be any detours due to construction? I only go mornings and afternoons so i don’t worry about it at night. — Juli Oh

There may be intermittent delays and minor reroutes to Metro Rapid 761 due to ongoing construction for the next three years. Check our bus service advisories for detours at

Is there a time, during this construction, when the Sunset Bridge will be closed entirely?

Yes. During the demolition of the bridge, Sunset will be closed where it crosses the I-405 and Sepulveda Bl. We anticipate, however, that this complete closure will occur for only six nights, and this will occur during night hours, after peak travel times.

Have people seen their “commute” times along Sunset increase since the construction began? If so, by how many minutes? Martha Groves

Initially, we believe the average commute lengthened by approximately 10 minutes. However, since the first couple days we have seen travel times stabilize, in part because drivers are using Wilshire Bl and other alternatives. We continue to monitor the traffic flow on Sunset Bl, as well as the detours to ensure that we have no significant impacts. There are benefits for experiencing this short-term pain. Sunset Bridge will be widened from six to eight lanes. The ramps to and from the bridge will be widened as well, which we believe will affect the adjoining intersections less.

Your Facebook updates keep saying that the 405 and the on and offramps will be closed for re-striping at night, however I was on the 405 on Sunday and I didn’t see any evidence of any restriping, just some construction machines parked on the shoulder.

The contractor is nearing completion of this work. The contractor is not working each night on this activity.

Will traffic be re-routed from Sunset going west to Sepulveda? When will Sepulveda adjacent to the I-405 be closed?

Sepulveda Bl will be closed for two nights when the section of Sunset Bridge over Sepulveda is being demolished. All of the completed detour plans are shown on our website.

Will drought tolerant/native plants be part of new landscaping?

Yes, drought tolerant/native plants are very much part of our landscaping plans. Caltrans, the City of Los Angeles, our landscape architect and our neighboring communities all provided input to the plant palettes that will be used.

So the bridge will continue to have four lanes (two in each direction) during peak rush hours – even during the bridge demolition?

During peak travel times, yes, two lanes in each direction will be maintained. During the night time bridge demolition Sunset Bridge will be closed.

At what time will you begin work on the Mulholland Bridge? Will there be passage over the bridge during rehab as you have on the Sunset Bridge? Valerie F.

Our schedule for demolishing the first half of Mulholland Bridge is late Fall 2010. Traffic in both directions will be maintained, except during actual demolition. We will provide exact dates as the contractor’s schedule is finalized.

After the project is finished, how many buses will use the HOV lane each day? Will there be any new or improved service to take advantage of the HOV lane?

This is something Metro does now. Bus Operations and Metro Planning will consider this option prior to the opening of the new northbound HOV lane

Can you give details on exactly what is happening with Sepulveda Blvd.? I hear it is going to be “moved” but find nothing on Metro’s site about it. What does that mean – moved to where? How?

Yes, we are moving the Sepulveda Bl centerline in a few locations. More specifically, we are widening Sepulveda. For drivers who take Sepulveda Bl, they will notice wider lanes and shoulders.

How much of the existing sound walls on the northbound 405, within the project, will need to come down and can any of it be reused?

All the sound walls will be replaced and their material will be recycled through the project crusher sites.

How do you suggest we commute from Sunset northbound to the Valley (Ventura)?

Our website contains detour maps for when construction activities affect the northbound I-405. The I-405 website contains daily construction updates. We also post construction activities on the project Twitter and Facebook pages.

When will the project be finished?

The project is scheduled for substantial completion by mid-2013, meaning the project will be open to traffic

The diamond lane often is no faster than the other lanes. Any chance of limiting access to a minimum of 4 occupants? And getting rid of the silly exception for hybrids? — Paul Dulaney

Good question. Our project, however, does not set the standards for who qualifies for using the HOV lane. Drivers who do not use the HOV lane, however, will also see a benefit, as the HOV lane should reduce traffic in the general purpose lanes. This project, in addition to the HOV lanes, is adding standard lane widths and shoulder widths, which should help all the traffic lanes, making travel safer for all commuters.

Will there by any M-F days throughout this project that any part of the 405 will be entirely closed? If so, when? what section?

No. Of course, our night work does close the freeway and ramps at time, but this occurs after the afternoon peak travel time. The only full closure that we anticipate would be during demolition of Mulholland Bridge, which might extend from Friday through Monday. This would occur only once during the demolition of each side of the bridge.

There’s some talk on a national level of putting tolls on major highways. Is this something that you have considered or will in the future.

There are currently no plans to implement tolls on the I-405 freeway. However, Metro has two Express Lane demonstration projects that are planned for the I-10 and I-110 highways.

Is there a phone number we can call for construction updates/road closures when we do not have access to the website?

Our project Hotline number is 213.922.3665. By mid-June, we expect to complete an upgrade to the Hotline, adding the same daily construction updates currently found on our project website, Twitter and Facebook.

I live in Brentwood and often take the 405 @ Sunset. I would love to know why (while this multi-million dollar project is being built) the contractors/engineers can’t put in place simple web cams along the various routes on Sunset & Wilshire so that when people leave their homes/offices they could simply look on the internet and decide which routes are moving most favorably for their destination at any given time. It’s inexpensive and most useful. More importantly it would ease congestion considerably for everyone. — Richard Rynveld

The project has no plans to install webcams in these areas. It would take multiple cameras to provide information on the various routes, and cameras would have to capture intersections from multiple angles.

I don’t understand why you put in a no right turn on red sign for the northbound Sunset offramp. It backs up traffic onto the freeway and seems unnecessary during most hours of the day. There are clear times when a right hand turn is perfectly safe–as safe as it was before all the barriers came up. The intersection is a mess enough without creating this new obstacle. — Harvey I. Saferstein

The project team will examine this issue with LADOT and evaluate whether the no right turn on red sign.

If the funding dries up to complete this project, what aspects of the project would be abandoned – in other words, what are the lowest priorities in the current design?

We have a commitment from the state and the federal government to completely fund the project

I have a suggestion for improving some of the congestion from Sunset (West) at Sepulveda Way for those trying to get on 405 N via Sepulveda N. Sepulveda Way has its own designated right turn lane onto Sepulveda N, but people don’t realize that, so instead of turning, they stop to wait for traffic to clear until they realize that no one is in their lane. This unnecessarily backs up traffic onto Sunset. If you delineated that area with yellow barrier posts people would realize that they have their own turn lane and traffic would continue to flow. Also, at that same intersection, there is a sign which denotes that the right lane doesn’t need to stop, but it is too far back from the intersection and covered over by trees, so people don’t see it. All they see is the stop sign which is there for the left turn lane, but they heed that thinking it is also for the right lane. I think these simple adjustments would really help improve traffic in that area. — Helene Toomey

That is a great idea. Our team will explore your idea with our contractor and Los Angeles Department of Transportation

I keep hearing about jobs being created for this project. Is that true? And how many?

According to our initial job estimates, we have already created between 2,000 to 3,000 jobs. Many more are to come. Part of the federal funding for this project comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Its goal is to create jobs

That’s all the time we have, Mike. Any final advice for those of us affected by the 405 construction?

Please keep your eyes on our channels of communication. We do our best to provide you timely, factual information to help you plan your routes to avoid our construction activity. Please be patient with us. We know that construction is challenging, but the sooner we get through with this, the sooner we can bring some relief to the affected commuters and our neighbors. Thanks for your questions.