405 freeway construction frustrates drivers

Champaign Williams

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Illustration by Jennifer Luxton / Assistant Visual Editor

Faculty and students who commute to campus using the I-405 are familiar with the congested build-up of traffic. Efforts to improve the freeway have suffered a six-month delay and Angelenos have spent more time in bumper-to-bumper traffic as a result.

Angelenos Against Gridlock (AAG), a group committed to improving Los Angeles traffic conditions, launched a new campaign called Faster 405 this month. The campaign calls for the speedy completion of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.

“We need to get Angelenos moving again,” said David Murphy, AAG president and program director. “This section of the 405 is ranked the third busiest highway in America. Construction delays hurt a staggering number of people, prolonging congestion impacts and detours, and postponing project benefits, including the new carpool lane and fixes to gridlocked freeway ramps.”

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project will reduce existing and future freeway obstruction by adding a 10-mile carpool lane onto the northbound side of the freeway, realigning 27 on and off-ramps, and widening 13 existing underpasses and structures, among other things. Major construction on this project began January 2010 and is estimated to be complete sometime in 2014.

“Congestion on the 405 affects everything. If it’s past two or three I know it’s going to take longer to get anywhere,” said Korinna Fite, senior kinesiology major. “When I worked in Century City during the highest traffic times, it would take me an hour and a half to get to and from work.”

Fite has been rear-ended twice while waiting in gridlock traffic on the 405. She shook her head nonchalantly as she described drivers who never use their blinkers and always rush through exits as “typical L.A. traffic.”

AAG wants to see the pace of construction increase as safely and efficiently as possible in order to ensure that the job gets done on time or sooner, said Murphy.

“We do recognize that some of the delays have been caused by outside forces and subcontractors,” said Murphy. “But we want all parties to work together to get this done quickly and safely.”

The Metro Construction Committee held a community meeting regarding the 405 project on Nov. 15, allowing Angelenos to ask questions and hear from the Metro community relations staff.

During the meeting, staff explained that according to the project contract, substantial construction completion was supposed to be May 2013. But due to the six-month delay, substantial completion is now estimated to be in December 2013. However, final completion will not take place until six months after substantial completion.

“We are in total support of Angelenos Against Gridlock,” said Kasey Shuda, Metro Construction Relations representative. “We would love to get this project done as soon as possible.”

In his op-ed piece featured in the Los Angeles Business Journal, Murphy wrote about the frustration Angelenos have toward the 405 freeway reconstruction.

“Drivers continue to confront the real doomsday scenario every day on the 405, with Armageddon-worthy gridlock being the daily norm,” Murphy wrote. “The ongoing construction work only adds to the mind-bending congestion that existed even before the Sepulveda Pass improvements project started.”

Murphy said he has been blown away by Angelenos interest in the Faster 405 campaign and that the issue clearly strikes a nerve in people frustrated by traffic.

The Faster 405 call to action campaign has received a lot of media coverage. The Los Angeles Daily News featured a story about the campaign and the continued efforts of the AAG, as did the KCLA9/CBS2 news station and KFI AM radio.

“Traffic gridlock is what unites all of us in LA,” he said.