As most of your know, the new northbound HOV lane on the 405 freeway between the 10 and 101 is opening Friday. There will finally be an HOV on the north side of the freeway to match the one on the southbound side that was completed in 2002.
Obviously traffic due to construction over the past four-and-a-half years has not been a treat. The good news: the key project work is finally open and available for Memorial Day weekend travelers and regular commuters.
The work involved has been considerable since the project got underway in 2009. The work also extends far beyond adding the HOV lane. Three bridges over the 405 have been rebuilt to seismic standards and widened. And many ramps on the 405 between the 10 and 101 have been lengthened, widened and in some cases moved to better locations.
Some interesting stats, according to Metro: Enough concrete was used on the project to build four Staple Centers, enough dirt was moved to fill 100,000 dump trucks and enough rebar installed to build 15,000 Volkswagen beetles.
I know there are people reading this who will argue that it’s pointless to improve freeways because they will inevitably fill with traffic. That’s a point well taken.
On the other hand, there’s a pretty good counter-argument to be made. The first is that the 405 has not been substantially improved since it was built across the Sepulveda Pass in 1963 — when L.A. County only had six million or so residents. The county today has more than 10 million people, not to mention the growth in surrounding areas. Look at Orange County, which is traversed by the 405. In 1960, it had about 700,000 residents. It has about 3.1 million people today, according to the Census Bureau.
The status quo on the 405 prior to work beginning in 2009 was certainly not good and logic dictates that traffic conditions would just keep getting worse in coming years as the region’s population grows. Metro and Caltrans say that project capacity improvements will help meet future traffic demands in our region.
Let’s run through some of the improvements:
•Prior to the work, there was an HOV on the southbound side of the 405 between the 10 and the 101. But the northbound side didn’t have an HOV lane due to lack of funding. There will now be HOV lanes on the 405 for 36 miles in both directions between the Orange County line and the northern San Fernando Valley, where the 405 merges into the Golden State Freeway.
Metro is also studying a new express bus that would run between Westwood and the northern San Fernando Valley using the HOV lane on the 405.
Measure R also provides $1 billion in seed money for a separate transit project that would span the Sepulveda Pass. Initial studies are underway and among the alternatives being evaluated is a transit tunnel under the pass, perhaps to be accompanied by a tolled tunnel for motor traffic.
•The on- and off-ramps at Wilshire Boulevard were rebuilt with flyover ramps to eliminate bottlenecks from cars exiting the 405 mixing with cars trying to enter. The ramps were also expanded to hold more vehicles. For example, the ramp from eastbound Wilshire to the northbound 405 is 3,129-feet long — 500 feet longer than the ramp it replaced — and has 280 percent more capacity. The southbound off-ramp from the 405 to eastbound Wilshire now has 134 percent more capacity.
•The new Sunset Boulevard Bridge is higher, longer and significantly wider at 120 feet — approximately 30 feet wider than before the project. It features two additional traffic lanes and higher capacity on- and off-ramps to improve area traffic flows and reduce congestion on local streets. Motorists will now enjoy dedicated turn lanes to access freeway ramps, and motorists traveling east/west through the bridge will be able to do so more quickly.
•The new Mulholland Bridge is 10 feet wider than the one it replaced and built to modern seismic standards. A new sidewalk was added on the south side of the bridge.
•The ramp from the westbound 10 to the northbound 405 was widened and other improvements were made to ramps at the extremely busy 10-405 junction.
•The 405 on- and off-ramps that serve Skirball Center Drive were demolished and rebuilt 2,000 feet south of their former location. This should help ease the traffic crunch at the intersection of Skirball Center Drive and Mulholland and make it easier to exit and enter the freeway. The new ramps also hold more than 200 additional vehicles.
•Among other improvements: new turn lanes for those entering the 405 from Sepulveda Boulevard, new sidewalks, curbs and gutters along Sepulveda Boulevard, new bike lanes for parts of Sepulveda Boulevard, an addition of 1,200 feet to the off-ramp to Cotner, the street that motorists use to access Santa Monica Boulevard (the ramp is now 2,300 feet long).