Sunday, December 25, 2016

Los Angeles Drivers on the 405 Ask: Was $1.6 Billion Worth It?

It is the very symbol of traffic and congestion. Interstate 405, or the 405, as it is known by the 300,000 drivers who endure it morning and night, is the busiest highway in the nation, a 72-mile swerving stretch of pavement that crosses the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles.

So it was that many Angelenos applauded when officials embarked on one of the most ambitious construction projects in modern times here: a $1 billion initiative to widen the highway. And drivers and others put up with no shortage of disruption — detours and delays, highway shutdowns, neighborhood streets clogged with cars — in the hopes of relieving one of the most notorious bottlenecks anywhere.

Six years after the first bulldozer rolled in, the construction crews are gone. A new car pool lane has opened, along with a network of on- and offramps and three new earthquake-resistant bridges.

But the question remains: Was it worth it?

“In the long term, it will make no difference to the traffic pattern,” said Marcia Hobbs, who has lived her whole life in Bel Air. “I haven’t noticed substantial cutbacks in traffic. As a matter of fact, I would say it was the opposite.”

The cost of the Sepulveda Pass project was supposed to be $1 billion. It has now reached $1.6 billion, after transit officials approved $300 million in new expenses last week.

Peak afternoon traffic time has indeed decreased to five hours from seven hours’ duration (yes, you read that right) and overall traffic capacity has increased. But congestion is as bad — even worse — during the busiest rush hours of 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., according to a study by the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

by Adam Nagourney, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Andrew Cullen