First new bridge on I-405 improvement project opens in O.C.

With falsework still in place, traffic on the 405 freeway passes under the new Slater Avenue bridge in Fountain Valley on Wednesday, August 28, 2019. The bridge is scheduled to open early Friday morning after the previous bridge was torn down to make room for the widening of the 405 freeway.  (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The first bridge under SoCal’s $1.9 billion I-405 Improvement Project has been inaugurated in Orange County, California.

The Slater Avenue Bridge in Fountain Valley was fully demolished last September and was successfully reconstructed in less than a year. It is the first of 18 bridges to be built, widened or replaced as part of the I-405 Improvement Project, which will speed up freeway travel times between Costa Mesa and the Los Angeles County line.

The I-405 is an essential artery in the region — and this 16-mile segment in Orange County is one of the most heavily traveled stretches of highway in the nation, used by more than 370,000 vehicles a day. Drivers regularly face severe congestion in both the regular lanes and carpool lanes. The Orange County Transportation Authority’s (OCTA) improvement project is critical to accommodate expected employment, population and housing growth throughout the region.

Considered to be the largest highway project under construction in the state, the expansion project will add one regular lane in each direction between Euclid Street and I-605, and a second lane in each direction in the center of the freeway from SR-73 to I-605 that will combine with the existing carpool lanes to form the 405 Express Lanes.

The 405 Express Lanes have been modeled after OCTA’s 91 Express Lanes; solo drivers will now be able to pay a toll to speed up their commute. Initially, the toll policy will allow all three-person carpools to use the 405 Express lanes for free at all times and two-person carpools will pay a toll only during rush hour.

The I-405 Improvement Project is expected to be completed in 2023 and it is being funded by a combination of local, state and federal funds — including $1.1 million from Orange County’s Measure M2, a half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements.

Orange County voters first approved Measure M in 1990 and benefitted from over $4 billion in transportation improvements made possible by the original Measure M. In 2006, 70% of voters signaled their confidence in the measure by approving a 30-year extension of the existing half-cent sales tax that was set to expire in 2011. This renewal launched M2 known as OC Go. OC Go is expected to generate more than $13.1 billion through 2041, allowing OCTA to continue making transportation improvements that benefit the public and the local economy.

In addition, the project secured a $629 million federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan. The federal loan will save taxpayers nearly $300 million compared to traditional financing methods.

“This project demonstrates how strong partnerships between Caltrans, the business community, and local and regional agencies can result in viable solutions to some of the state’s most significant congestion problems,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty when the project launched in 2018.

OCTA serves 3.1 million residents across 34 cities, through planning, funding and implementing transit and capital projects. OCTA covers freeways and express lanes, bus and rail transit, rideshare, commuter rail and active transportation.

Source: Various

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