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The HOV lane on the northbound 405 opened earlier this morning. A media event has just begun at Getty Center — we’ll have photos and video later today. Here’s the news release from Metro:
Paving the Road to a Better 405
L.A. Metro, Caltrans, Kiewit Open 10-Mile Northbound I-405 Carpool Lane between I-10 and U.S. 101
Los Angeles, Calif. – Just in time for the busy Memorial Day travel weekend, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and contractor Kieiwit Infrastructure West today officially opened the new 10-mile northbound carpool lane between the I-10 and U.S. 101, adding needed capacity to one of the nation’s busiest freeways and closing the last remaining gap in the entire I-405 carpool lane network.
The lane opening is the capstone for the massive $1.141 billion I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project which began construction in 2009. Project partners have committed to opening parts of the project as soon as they’re ready for public use. The contractor will continue to perform some additional project work and landscaping on the freeway alignment and city streets. Key project deliverables are now open and operational.
“Carpool lanes are a vitally important part of L.A. County’s transportation infrastructure, and nowhere are they needed more than here on the I-405, which suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in America,” said Diane Dubois, Metro Board Chair and City of Lakewood Council Member. “While construction has been challenging for both motorists and neighboring communities, we have now successfully paved the road to a better 405. The northbound 405 will operate more efficiently, will help reduce the duration and severity of congestion, and help us better meet the future vehicle demands within this corridor.”
The project area provides the only direct freeway connection between the San Fernando Valley and Westside. This corridor currently serves major destinations along busy Ventura Boulevard, the Getty Center, Skirball Cultural Center, Westwood, UCLA and Los Angeles International Airport, among others. Approximately 300,000 vehicles travel on this portion of the I-405 every day, That number is expected to grow with future vehicle demands.
“This project is a testament to how Caltrans and Metro worked together to address a critical transportation need. The new carpool lanes on the 405 link more than 70 miles of carpool lanes from Orange County through Los Angeles County,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Instead of being stuck in traffic – burning gasoline and polluting the air – drivers can use the carpool lanes and pocket their savings for more important things.”
The project has been one of the most ambitious and challenging freeway construction projects ever undertaken in Los Angeles County. The project’s immense scope included rebuilding three major freeway bridges, widening 20 other bridges, completely rebuilding and adding more capacity to the I-405/Wilshire Interchange, moving a whole section of Sepulveda Boulevard to the east as well as portions of the northbound freeway to the west, undergrounding numerous utility lines, and building more than 20 miles of sound and retaining walls for local communities.
“The 405 project is absolutely critical to our quality of life and economy, but it can’t end soon enough, which is why I’m thrilled that our work to solve delay-causing problems means the project is getting done months early,” said L.A. City Mayor Eric Garcetti. “When I took office, I knew we had to accelerate this project, which is I why I tapped Nick Patsouras to serve as my 405 advisor to work with the contractor and the various agencies involved. This opening, in time for the Memorial Day holiday, is a celebration of what happens when all parties come together around efficiency, urgency and trust.”
All construction work had to be carefully orchestrated to allow hundreds of thousands of motorists access to the freeway on a daily basis. Adding to the project’s complexity, freeway widening was required in the middle of the dense urban environment of West Los Angeles. In the geographically constrained Sepulveda Pass, there was literally no room to build an extra traffic lane; the contractor had to carve it out of the canyon’s hillside.
The project will benefit motorists regardless of whether they use the carpool lane or not. Approximately 15 percent of the vehicles on the freeway (or approximately 45,000 vehicles on the I-405) already contain multiple passengers. The extra toll-free carpool lane will absorb these vehicles, which will help improve and more evenly distribute traffic flows across all freeway lanes.
On average, each carpool lane in L.A. County carries 1,300 vehicles per hour, or 3,100 people during peak hours. Together, approximately 322,000 vehicles, or 750,000 people per day ride the carpool lanes throughout the L.A. County system, making the most utilized carpool lane system in the country.
Lastly, a carpool lane typically saves a commuter one minute per mile of travel time. With 10 miles of new carpool lane capacity, northbound commuters who rideshare could potentially save 10 minutes per day, and 50 minutes per week depending on traffic conditions.
The new lane will also provide an incentive for greater utilization of carpools, vanpools and public transit. Highway projects complement transit by enhancing the ability for mass transit to do its job well by enabling transit providers to use the carpool lanes for longer distance commutes. Metro is now evaluating a new express bus (Line 588) which would utilize the exclusive I-405 carpool lanes to provide connecting service between the Westside and San Fernando Valleys. Funding for this new line will need to be identified.
“This has been the ‘mother’ of all public works projects,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “I am grateful for the patience, perseverance and understanding of the residents and employees of the 405 corridor. They have put up with unprecedented disruption in their lives, and they have done so with grace. In the end, the widening of the freeway, the seismic upgrades of three bridges and the reconfiguration of the Wilshire/405 on and off ramps will serve this region for generations to come.”
Other project benefits motorists will enjoy are safety improvements such as standardized lane widths and shoulders on the freeway along both the inside and outside traffic lanes. The standardized shoulders will also facilitate faster response times by Metro Freeway Service Patrol vehicles and other emergency responders. New on and offramps will have acceleration/decelleration distances that meet current state standards.
The project also replaced three bridges at Sunset Boulevard, Skirball Center Drive and Mulholland Drive and overpasses built in the 1950s with structures that meet modern seismic design standards. Capacity was added to most major ramps, including Santa Monica, Wilshire and Sunset Boulevards. The longer ramps enable traffic to queue on ramps rather than surface streets or freeway.
The project experienced a number of notable construction activities that have since become urban lore in Los Angeles. From 2011 to 2014, extended duration freeway lane and ramp closures drew international headlines and coined new freeway terms like Carmageddon, Rampture, Ramp Jam and Jamzilla. Successful public outreach campaigns led by Metro ensured public safety for every major construction operation.
Metro is a multimodal transportation agency that is really three companies in one: a major operator that transports about 1.5 million boarding passengers on an average weekday on a fleet of 2,000 clean air buses and six rail lines, a major construction agency that oversees many bus, rail, highway and other mobility related building projects, and it is the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County. Overseeing one of the largest public works programs in America, Metro is, literally, changing the urban landscape of the Los Angeles region. Dozens of transit, highway and other mobility projects largely funded by voter-approved Measure R are under construction or in the planning stages. These include five new rail lines, the I-5 widening and other major projects.