405 Widening Project Costs Could Balloon by $100M

The finish date for $1 billion project along a stretch of the San Diego Freeway has been delayed at least 13 months

A massive $1 billion freeway widening project on one of the nation’s most traffic-choked freeway thoroughfares will take at least a year longer than first anticipated and cost about $100 million more.

Work along the San Diego Freeway through the Sepulveda pass -- a section that links the Westside to the San Fernando Valley -- has already cost countless hours of commuters’ time and caused frustration among residents living in the area.

Now, officials are aiming to complete the bulk of the project by June 2014 -- about a 13-month delay -- with some additional work lasting until next fall, officials said.

The delays and cost overruns are raising the ire of both residents and local officials, who say the project is causing major disruptions throughout the already traffic-clogged Westside.

"This has been a mess and I am very upset about it," said LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the west side.

Several factors have driven the delays, including the structural failure of miles of new sound walls that had to be demolished and rebuilt, a legal wrangle over the placement of ramps near the Getty Center and the complex logistics of finding and relocating more than a dozen utility lines under Sepulveda Boulevard.

“Kiewit and Metro are committed to working together to minimize future delays and resolve final costs,” said Kiewit, a contractor on the project, in a statement.

The 405 is a vital north-south artery that carries about 300,000 vehicles a day and frequently becomes clogged under the best of circumstances.

The closures of the freeway during the weekends of July 15, 2011, and Sept. 29, 2012, were dubbed Carmageddon I and Carmageddon II in anticipation of an exceptionally huge backup in traffic that never materialized.

When the project is complete, Southern California motorists will have a continous carpool lane between Orange County and the San Fernando Valley, a feature that is expected to shave up to 40 minutes from drivers' commutes, according to Dave Sotero, spokesman for LA County Metro.

But Yaroslavsky isn't convinced the benefits outweigh the costs, especially those absorbed by residents living near the major thoroughfare.

"It would be hard for me to say with a straight face that it has been worth it," he said.

Among the frustrated westsiders is entrepreneur Elon Musk, creator of Pay-Pal and Space X Corporation. Musk has spent $50,000 to help get the project finished faster, with little results.

"People's homes have been damaged by jackhammers going all day and all night," Yaroslavsky said. "People unable to sleep because of jackhammers going all day."

Parallel to the 405 near Santa Monica Boulevard is Sol Kahen's 25-year-old electrical business. Another year of construction delay will zap him out of more customers who cannot park, and prolong the daily hassles of noise, dust, orange barrels, roadblocks and periodic utility shutdowns.

Casey Sedgwick told NBC4 earlier this month that “enormous amounts of sand” blow into his yard, making it impossible to keep up with the cleaning.

More than 300 claims have been filed in connection with the project due to property and auto damage, according to Metro. Ninety of those claims have been resolved.

Yaroslavsky has questioned the claims process and has directed an inspector general to audit all pending claims once again.

Anyone who wishes to file a claim related to the 405 Freeway project can call 213-922-3665.

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