The $1.9 billion I-405 Improvement Project is almost 40 percent complete, said the program manager at an Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) meeting on Sept. 28.
The highway construction project is the largest in California and aims to alleviate growing pressure on the nation's busiest stretch of highway. The project began in 2018 and is expected to be completed by 2023.
Measure M’s half-cent tax is providing the funds to add one extra lane in each direction on the I-405, along with transforming the carpool lane and a regular lane into dual express lanes.
The project, which is 16 miles long and runs from SR 73 in Costa Mesa to I-605 in Seal Beach, has been able to take advantage of California’s pandemic shutdown to accelerate some of the construction.
“From mid-March to the end of May, OCTA was able to provide our contractor daytime freeway lane closures due to the reduced traffic volumes related to COVID-19,” said program manager Jeff Mills.
The number of miles traveled by vehicles in Southern California declined nearly 80 percent in early April of this year, Kome Ajise, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, said at the meeting.
Since then, miles traveled have gradually increased, but they’re still lower than normal.
“These declines have serious implications for our region’s economy, as you might imagine,” Ajise said.
Construction for the I-405 project began in March 2018 and continued through the state’s stay-at-home order this year. More than 1,000 workers are actively involved in the project every day.
Other OCTA projects are on track to be completed soon despite pandemic-related delays.
Bridges at both McFadden Avenue and Bushard Street are expected to be open to traffic in mid-October, Mills said.
The McFadden bridge was delayed by approximately two weeks because of a cement and concrete shortage, according to the project’s contractor.
A combination of issues related to the pandemic and recent electricity shutoffs is believed to be the cause, as well as one concrete supplier going out of business.
Construction on bridges at Edinger Avenue and Brookhurst Street will be started as soon as the McFadden and Bushard projects are complete. The traffic on Brookhurst Street will be shifted to one side of the bridge to allow for demolition of the other side.
The first half of the Westminster Boulevard bridge is also expected to be open later this year.
“Looking ahead, the remainder of 2020 and the first half of 2021 will continue to be a busy time for bridge, wall, and pavement construction,” said Mills.
Upcoming full freeway closures are planned between Brookhurst and Euclid streets. The closures will take place between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Sept. 28 and Sept. 29 for the southbound side, and between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Sept. 30 through Oct. 1 for the northbound side.
The public is encouraged to continue to participate in the county’s virtual meetings on the I-405 project and ask questions. They’ve held nearly a dozen meetings since late March, with more than 2,500 people attending.
On the morning of Sept. 28, a semi-truck carrying a forklift smashed into the construction support system under the Bolsa Avenue bridge, spreading debris across the 405 freeway and damaging the bridge. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the freeway was temporarily closed.