Federal, state and county transportation officials and guests attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the project on Jan. 26.
Orange County Transportation Authority and Caltrans are heading an effort to reduce congestion on a busy section of Interstate 405 — also known as the San Diego Freeway — by widening 16 mi. of the 72.41-mi. freeway from state Route 73 in Costa Mesa to Interstate 605 near Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and the Los Angeles County line.
The $1.9 billion project includes adding one regular lane in each direction from Euclid Street in Fountain Valley to I-605. An express lane will be built in each direction for the full 16-mi. stretch.
Federal, state and county transportation officials and guests attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the project on Jan. 26. Most of the initial work will be in preparation for grading.
“Heavy construction on the project will begin this summer,” said Joel Zlotnik, OCTA media relations officer. “This is a design-build project and the design was completed last year.”
Zlotnic described the project as a huge undertaking. It is a five-year project that is scheduled to conclude sometime in 2023.
The existing carpool lanes (one in each direction) will become part of the express lanes, so the section of freeway will have two express lanes heading north or south. The express lanes will incorporate new freeway connectors that opened in 2014.
In addition to widening the freeway, crews will use new designs to improve I-405 Freeway entrances and exits. I-405 currently has four regular lanes and one carpool lane each way in the project area. When work concludes, the freeway will have five regular lanes and two express lanes in each direction.
Along with building new lanes, workers will replace 18 bridges plus widen others. They will reconfigure interchanges, build new sound walls and construct bike lanes and sidewalks.
Project manager is Jeff Mills, program manager of OCTA.
Contractor for the design-build project is OC 405 Partners. OC 405 Partners is a joint venture of OHL USA Inc. of Miami, Fla., and Astaldi Construction Corporation of Davie, Fla. Major subcontractors include Myers and Sons Construction of Sacramento and All American Asphalt of Corona, Calif. Because it is a design-build contract, work may be done simultaneously in multiple areas of the 16-mi. stretch.
Express Lanes Benefits
Those who choose to pay a toll improve traffic for everyone by freeing up space in the regular lanes, including the additional lane in each direction that is being added as part of the project. Also, if there are excess toll revenues beyond operational, maintenance and financing costs, it will provide funding for additional improvements in the corridor.
As an example, to date the express lanes on the nearby SR-91 freeway have provided more than $15 million for improvements to the freeway and for public transit in the SR-91 corridor.
Adding Express Lanes, in addition to the new regular lanes, benefits all people who use the I-405. Rush-hour commutes in the regular lanes on I-405 are expected to be reduced by almost 30 minutes versus only building one regular lane in each direction.
Solo drivers will be able to use the express lanes for a toll. Carpoolers will not be charged except for two-person carpools during peak hours.
Carpools of three or more will be free at all times.
The regular lane portion of the project is funded by voter approved Measure M and a combination of local, state and federal funds. The express lanes portion of the project will be paid for mostly from tolls paid to use the lanes.
Freeway Improvements Seriously Needed
The I-405 freeway experiences heavy traffic congestion and conditions are expected to worsen. Built in the 1960s, the freeway carries between 257,000 and 370,000 vehicles per day depending on location. Near the L.A. County line, the I-405 is the most heavily traveled freeway in the nation and both the regular lanes and carpool
lanes are congested daily during rush hour and on weekends.
Traffic along the corridor is expected to grow approximately 35 percent by 2040. Additional lanes and other improvements are needed to improve traffic flow, accommodate growing traffic demand, relieve congestion, and improve overall mobility.
The I-405 Improvement Project is considered critical to accommodate expected employment, population and housing growth in not only Orange County, but throughout Southern California.
Congestion Not Eliminated
Designers of the I-405 improvements were limited in the ability to fully eliminate congestion on the freeway. They had to keep the freeway within the existing right of way and that limited the number of lanes that could be added.
Still, the express lanes are expected to provide a fast, reduced stress travel option.
Goals of the project included reducing congestion, minimizing environmental impacts, building the project generally within the existing footprint and limiting right-of-way acquisitions.
The amount of traffic in the express lanes will be adjusted by raising and lowering tolls. That will make traffic more predictable and help move more vehicles per lane during peak periods.
In 2040 it is expected to take about 29 minutes to travel from SR-73 to I-605 using the regular lanes on I-405. Travel time for the commute can be reduced to 13 minutes if drivers choose to use I-405 express lanes, OCTA reported.