By Car

Wilshire 405 flyover ramps coming

December 8, 2010

Given the dismal state of Westside traffic, it’s been a long time since anybody was able to fly through the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and the 405.

But someday people will be able to fly over it.

Two new flyover ramps are part of an ambitious new phase of the 405 Sepulveda Pass improvements project that’s currently projected to begin as early as February. The usual no-pain-no-gain equation applies, however, and each of the existing Wilshire ramps is expected to be closing for periods that could range from 14 days to three months so the work can take place. Detours and many other details of the construction still are being worked out.

The work promises to bring a new layer of temporary suffering to an area that already experiences some of the region’s worst traffic.

When completed, the new ramps, or loops, are expected to significantly improve the flow of traffic onto and off the freeway. Currently, vehicles trying to get off the freeway onto Wilshire must jockey with other vehicles entering the freeway. Under the new configuration, shown in the graphic below, the on ramps and off ramps would be completely separate.

The Wilshire flyover ramps have been the subject of previous speculation, including this on LA Observed. The plans will be sketched out for the public, among many other matters, at the project’s quarterly community meeting on Thursday, Dec. 9, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Mirman School auditorium.

An overview of the Wilshire improvements also was included in last month’s Community Advisory Committee briefing, which is available here and will be repeated for anyone who’s interested at the end of the meeting on Thursday.

The Sepulveda Pass project will add a 10-mile northbound carpool lane to the 405 and rebuild three overpass bridges, along with other improvements. It is expected to be finished in 2013.

Posted 12/8/10

Skirball Bridge demo—and detours—begin

October 12, 2010

Getting over the Sepulveda Pass is going to be trickier than usual over the next five nights.

Demolition work on the north side of the Skirball Center Drive Bridge over the 405 Freeway is set to begin tonight, requiring full closure of the freeway between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The after-hours work is expected to continue for five consecutive nights.

Metro has assembled a fact sheet on the Skirball Bridge segment of the project, along with construction information and detour maps.

The bridge is one of three affected by the Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project to build a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the 405 Freeway. Work on the first, the Sunset Bridge, got underway in July. Metro officials said recently that community concerns about the handling of the third bridge, at Mulholland Drive, has led to a rethinking of that part of the process. Unlike the other bridges, which are being torn down and rebuilt in segments, the Mulholland Bridge now is expected to be torn down all at once after a new replacement bridge is constructed nearby.

Posted 10/12/10

Updated 10/15/10: That was fast. Contractors made quick work of demolishing the north side of the Skirball Bridge over the 405, finishing in three nights instead of the expected five. They’ll be back in a month for two nights of abutment demolition. The rebuilding is expected to take seven months. Then the process will begin all over on the bridge’s south side.

Community wins 405 bridge change

September 29, 2010

Neighborhood traffic concerns—and the potential for saving millions in construction costs—have prompted a radical rethinking of plans to bring down the Mulholland Bridge over the 405 Freeway.

Instead of demolishing and rebuilding the 1959 structure—one of three bridges targeted in the 405 Sepulveda Pass project—workers instead would construct an entirely new Mulholland overpass just south of the current bridge. Coming from the west, drivers would enter the new bridge in the same place they do now, then angle slightly south across the freeway before ending up on Skirball Center Drive. Only after the new span was completed would the old one come down, thus reducing traffic-related inconvenience during construction.

Adopting the new approach is “about 99% sure,” said Mike Barbour, who is heading up the project for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He estimates the new method would save between $4 million and $10 million, most of that due to a more straightforward, single-phase building process and a more streamlined approach to temporarily relocating utilities.

The impetus to take another look at the construction plan grew out of meetings this summer with community activists concerned about how dismantling and rebuilding the Mulholland Bridge would affect traffic in the area, home to many educational and religious institutions.

There was applause when the new approach was announced at a recent meeting of the project’s Community Advisory Committee. The group was convened to provide input on the $1.034 billion project, a partnership between Metro and Caltrans that will create a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the 405, along with other improvements.

“This group of decision-makers is actually listening to the public,” said Richard H. Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association and a member of the advisory committee, who was not at the recent meeting but took part in an earlier session where community concerns about the Mulholland Bridge were discussed. “They’re willing to redesign and solve a problem. It’s a much more collaborative process with the MTA than with other agencies.”

“On other projects, we’ve been told, ‘we are the experts.’” That may be true from an engineering standpoint, he said, but people who live in the area have an invaluable perspective, too: “We know traffic flow.”

He said Metro’s decision to take another look “is somewhat historic, especially on a transportation project.”

Still, other community concerns linger, many relating to the bridge at Skirball Center Drive, where demolition work on the northern side of the structure is slated to begin on October 12. Project plans currently call for freeway on- and off-ramps to be redirected onto Sepulveda Boulevard, rather than directly onto the bridge, as they are now. Residents say they fear the change will create traffic problems on Sepulveda.

“There are a lot of issues with the Skirball Bridge,” said Laurie Kelson, an advisory committee member and chair of the Encino Neighborhood Council’s traffic and transportation committee. “Our community does not want the ramps moved.”

Barbour said those concerns are being reviewed and alternatives are being evaluated. But he said he doesn’t see “a win/win at this point” regarding the Skirball ramps, given what the community wants and what traffic engineers say is needed for improved traffic flow.

Some also have posed questions in recent days about what a new Mulholland Bridge would look like, said Ron Macias, a Metro community relations officer. A 2007 Caltrans assessment described the current structure as an historic example of transportation engineering that “exemplifies the minimalist or modernist aesthetics of the period.”

And there are those, like Louis Krokover, president of the Encino Neighborhood Council and a 3rd generation builder, who argue that the Skirball and Mulholland bridges don’t need to be replaced at all.

Officials on the project say that building a wider freeway requires rebuilding and modernizing the three bridges, which, in addition to Skirball and Mulholland, include the bridge at Sunset Boulevard, whose southern side has been demolished and is now being rebuilt.

Barbour said he hopes that construction on the new Mulholland Bridge will start in January, 2011, and take about 12 months to complete.

He’s currently in the process of negotiating the new plan with the project’s contractors and working out details with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

And he credits the community groups—which he acknowledged frequently get “blown off” in dealing with public agencies—with sending his staff back to the drawing board. That review helped determine that the project had the right of way to land on which to build the new Mulholland Bridge, which made rethinking the process possible.

“They pushed us,” Barbour said. “They asked us and we went back and looked at it.”

Posted 9/29/10

Big blankets vs. 405 night noise

July 14, 2010

405-freeway-from-getty280Demolition work on the Sunset Bridge over the 405 Freeway will take place within a massive cocoon of sound blankets—some 30 feet long and suspended from cranes. Others will be draped from the back side of the bridge, while additional blankets will encase concrete barriers around the site as the south side of the bridge is dismantled piece by piece on six consecutive nights.

The sound absorption blankets—all 6,000 square feet of them—are a bit of “pre-emptive mitigation” that officials hope will help muffle some of the expected noise from the project, which, after weeks of prep work, is about to enter the bridge demolition phase on July 23.

“We’re basically encircling the site with sound blankets,” says Devon Cichoski, Metro’s community relations manager on the project to add a 10-mile northbound carpool lane to the 405 Freeway, along with other improvements. “The idea is you kind of encase the bridge in these sound blankets and less noise is escaping into the community.”

Nighttime construction noise is allowed up to 86 decibels, as measured 50 feet from the site.

“Could it still be loud with all that stuff up? Absolutely,” Cichoski says.

So people with urgent noise complaints—or other emergency issues—are encouraged to call the project’s hotline number, (213) 922-3665.

Operators (well, Metro community relations staff) really will be standing by, Cichoski says. After-hours callers will be connected to a line that provides the cell phone number of that night’s on-call representative. Callers with more routine comments or questions can leave a message. The hotline also offers a recorded rundown on each day’s lane and ramp closures.

For a look at all the planned freeways and street closures—and recommended detours—during the Sunset Bridge demolition work, check out this construction notice and attached map.

The Sunset Bridge is the first of three bridges over the freeway that will be demolished in sections and reconstructed in new-and-improved form during the course of the project. (The others are at Skirball Center Drive and Mulholland Drive.)

After the south side of the Sunset Bridge is rebuilt—which should take about 10 months—the process will be repeated on the north side. The bridge will have four lanes open to traffic during construction—two in each direction.

Read our earlier story about the Sunset Bridge work here.

405 project questions? Ask away

May 17, 2010

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If the prospect of three years of construction on the 405 Freeway has you concerned, curious, or both, here’s a chance to get some answers about the project directly from the man in charge.

Metro’s Mike Barbour, who’s heading up the effort to build a 10-mile northbound carpool lane through the Sepulveda Pass, will be answering questions during an online chat on Wednesday, May 26 from noon to 1 p.m.

The session is called “Living with the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project.” Metro asks that you submit your questions in advance, and says queries under 300 characters will get priority during the session.

Full information on the session is here, along with a project overview in which Barbour says that widening and improving the freeway—one of the nation’s busiest—is as “challenging as performing heart surgery on a patient while she runs a marathon.” The job’s expected to be completed by 2013.

Posted 5-17-10

Demolition time on Sunset

May 5, 2010

Hoe-ram550

When the Sunset Boulevard bridge overpass to the 405 Freeway comes down, don’t expect a Vegas-style, imploding-the-Sands-Hotel kind of spectacle. This will be more of a chunk-by-chunk demolition—what one Metro official likens to taking apart a giant Lego structure.

But this is no child’s play.

The $1.034 billion I-405 Sepulveda Pass widening project enters a challenging new phase this week as workers prepare to demolish portions of the Sunset Bridge, one of three overpasses to be taken down and replaced with wider, upgraded structures in coming months. Up next are bridges at Skirball Center Drive (work slated to begin this fall) and Mulholland (scheduled to begin after the Skirball work starts.)

Although advance work on the Sunset bridge project starts Friday, the precise date for the demolition is up in the air, with the start likely to come this month, depending on how the prep work goes.

The bridge will have four lanes open to traffic during construction—two in each direction—but the prospect of the inevitable noise, dirt and traffic disruption has many in this tony neighborhood on edge. Adding to the concern is the beginning of work next week on a city Department of Water and Power water pipeline project that, for the next six months, will close a block-long stretch of Church Lane heading south from Sunset.

At the Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard, one of two upscale hotels located in the midst of the coming action, employees are used to staging enormous wedding and bar mitzvah receptions in the 300-guest ballroom and catering to the needs of high-profile guests reported to include celebrities such as Charlize Theron and Jennifer Love Hewitt.

But operating a hotel with two massive construction projects just outside the door?

“We are actually, honestly, scared,” says Seth Horowitz, who until recently was general manager of the Luxe, site of a community meeting earlier this week for members of local neighborhood associations seeking information on the projects. Metro representatives have met with officials of the Luxe and its nearby counterpart, Hotel Angeleno, and promised to stay in close communication to ensure that construction doesn’t interfere with upcoming big events at the hotels.

Even at the best of times, getting around the area can be tough. Horowitz said a guest at a “very important event” recently told him about battling rush hour traffic for 1-1/2 hours to reach the hotel from Paul Revere Middle School near Mandeville Canyon Road—less than three miles away. “That’s before they cut down the bridge,” Horowitz says.

405-freeway-from-getty280Eventually, that kind of surface street congestion should be helped by the freeway project, whose primary objective is to create a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass—one of the most heavily-traveled corridors in the country. The rebuilt Sunset Bridge will be upgraded seismically and will be wider—120 feet, compared to 90 feet now—with 8 lanes instead of the current six and “higher capacity on- and off-ramps,” according to Metro.

The new capacity could also help with concerns about freeway-bound cars backing up onto local streets. As for the long-running issue of freeway-ramp meter timing, a pilot program set to begin May 21 will examine whether turning the meters off during construction will improve traffic conditions.

Mike Barbour, Metro’s top executive on the project, acknowledges the area’s traffic congestion problems and the fact that residents will “kind of have to plan their lives around this work” for a while.” He says his agency is working to communicate alternative routes and detours, and to respond, whenever possible, to community suggestions for improving the situation. “If it becomes a complete mess out there,” he says, “obviously we’re going to correct that.”

More than anything, though, he says the goal is to get the contractor, Kiewit Pacific Co., to complete the work as quickly as possible. “Our big push is going to be to get it done sooner,” Barbour says.

In the meantime Metro has established a page dedicated to the Sunset Bridge demolition on its website and also is experimenting with an array of social media to get the word out. “I tweeted 14 times today, just because today there happened to be a lot of lane closures,” says Ned J. Racine, the project’s “new media officer.” In addition to Twitter and Facebook, the latest tool in Racine’s lineup is Nixle, an ad-free notification site used by law enforcement and other government agencies to communicate highly localized information to members of the public.

But cyber tools are not going to be enough to get the job done in the real world, even in this highly desirable corner of the real world, dotted as it is with such internationally known locales as the Getty, UCLA, Brentwood and Bel-Air. So for the demolition work, they’re bringing in a destruction tool called the “hoe ram”—a crane with a massive jackhammer attached. The contractor is “basically going to break the bridge apart with a huge jackhammer,” says Mark Van Gessel, Metro’s manager for the Sunset segment.

The work will take place in phases—between 6 and 9 nights of demolition followed by 10 months of construction on the southern end of the bridge, with a repeat of the same pattern on the northern side when the first half is finished. In all, some 12,000 tons of concrete will come down, to be pulverized onsite and recycled as “crushed miscellaneous base” and used as a building material on the project.

Segments of the freeway will be closed when demo work is taking place on the bridge overhead, as will streets including Sunset and Sepulveda. However, the work will be staggered so that the freeway and Sepulveda will not be closed at the same time.

Workers will start preparing for the job on Friday night, closing Sunset Boulevard and on-ramps near the Hotel Angeleno at 9 p.m. to establish new lane markings and a work zone to be completed by 6 a.m. Monday morning. Then they’ll start preparing the bridge for demolition: securing a major 34-inch water line inside the bridge; removing and bagging asbestos from around piping; and taking out the original wood forms so that the concrete can be recycled.

Cori Solomon, president of the Brentwood Glen Association, organized the meeting at the Luxe Hotel this week and invited her counterparts in the Westwood Hills Residents Association to take part as well. (Metro’s presentation is here, with slide 11 detailing Friday’s work.)

About 200 people showed up to voice concerns about noise, the double-whammy of the Church Lane water main work taking place at the same time the bridge job is underway, and the potential for construction to send new “cut through” traffic onto traditionally quiet residential streets.

Solomon, who’s lived in the neighborhood nearly 24 years, says her goal throughout the project is to “keep the community aware” and to find ways to make the situation “semi-livable” for residents.

“The board understands that it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a mess,” she says. “The thing is, it’s going to happen. You can’t stop it.”

And a philosophical attitude helps. “In the scheme of things, this freeway construction is a small speck in your life,” Solomon says. “In the end, it will hopefully be a little better, a little nicer.”

The project hotline number is (213) 922-3665. The next community meeting is scheduled for May 20, from 6-8 p.m. at The Getty. A fact sheet on the project, including a list of frequently asked questions, is here.

Final-Sunset-Bridge-550

Posted 5-05-10

What’s up with the 405 project?

February 18, 2010

405-full

A community meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23, to provide updates on the project to add a carpool lane to the northbound 405 through the Sepulveda Pass.

Learn how the work is going—despite a series of rain delays just as work began—and find out what’s coming next.

The meeting will be held at The Getty, from 6-8 p.m. Full details are here.

Posted 2/18/10

Meet Metro’s man on the 405 project

January 12, 2010

It wasn’t that long ago that Mike Barbour was in the midst of rocket attacks as an Air Force reservist working on projects like rebuilding bombed out bridges or constructing temporary aircraft hangars in Iraq.mike-barbour-full-caption

Now he’s under another kind of pressure, of the diplomatic and logistical variety, as Metro’s top guy on the 405 Sepulveda Pass widening project—a multi-jurisdictional, three-year undertaking that will create a 10-mile northbound carpool lane between the Santa Monica (10) and the Ventura (101) freeways.

Along the way, it will have a profound impact on commuters traveling one of the nation’s most heavily traveled freeways, and also will significantly affect the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. It’s a huge job that requires deft coordination among agencies and departments and a straight-shooting approach to communicating with the area’s well-informed–and often vocal–residents.

Enter Mike Barbour.

Barbour, 56, who joined Metro just a year ago, figures it was his unique set of highway design and construction experiences—and not his time in a war zone—that made him the right man for the job of overseeing every facet of the complex project.

Still, it couldn’t hurt.

At his first meeting with representatives of homeowner groups, he encountered a contentious crowd but ended up making a positive impression.

“He kept his cool,” says Milton Miller, past president of the Bel-Air Association and the homeowner group’s representative on the Community Advisory Committee that is working with Metro on the 405 project. “He acted like a gentleman. He seems calm and measured, and pays attention. My impressions are positive. He didn’t try to hog the presentation and say, ‘This is about me.’”

Now, as eight weeks of night work begin on the 405, setting the stage for construction to begin in earnest in March, Barbour finds himself at the center of a high profile and high stakes enterprise that will be closely watched across the region.

map-405

The inaugural construction phase will change life as we know it on the already congested 405. “It’s a big deal…The people that drive this, that live there, haven’t been impacted and now they’re going to be impacted.”

The impact hits on Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m., when, weather permitting, crews will start delineating new, narrower lanes on the freeway to accommodate a construction zone.

trafficThe first full freeway closure is set to occur after midnight, in the early morning hours of Jan. 14, with all lanes scheduled to reopen by 6 a.m. [Updated 1/13/10: The start of work on the 405 is being delayed for a second night because of rain. Learn more here.] Updates also are being posted on Twitter. In addition, Metro has expanded its community relations staff on the project and has established a hotline for public inquiries, (213) 922-3665.

In dealing with the community, Barbour says, the important thing is to stick to the facts in the project plan. “All the people on the Westside understand what’s going on,” he says. “You need to be very straightforward.”

At monthly meetings with the Community Advisory Committee, Barbour says he tackles “every issue under the sun,” including such questions as: “Are you closing my off ramp? Are you affecting me? Can emergency equipment get through?” (For that last question, he brought in police and fire representatives to explain how they will respond.)

There are also meetings for the community as a whole, such as an open house planned for Jan. 20 at the Westwood Recreation Center.

The project, a partnership of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), is expected to cost $1.034 billion, with $189.9 million coming from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. The rest will flow from state and other federal sources.

Barbour’s job, which pays $200,000 annually, involves coordinating the work of all agencies with a role in the project—including Caltrans, the city Department of Transportation and L.A. County.

“It’s really trying to knock down the barriers for the contractor (Kiewit Pacific Co.),” says Barbour, whose official title is Executive Officer, Highway Project Management. “One of our main concerns is keeping the project on schedule.”

He’s a true believer in the importance of completing the northbound carpool lane through the Sepulveda Pass and creating an unbroken high-occupancy vehicle route from the Orange County line north to the San Fernando Valley.

“The HOV lane is a really big impact,” he says. “Three hundred thousand people come through there daily.”

Metro estimates that daily carpool commuters could save about 10 minutes a day—50 minutes a week—when the project is completed in 2013. “It’s not a lot for an individual,” Barbour says, “but for 300,000 people—that’s a significant amount of money and time.”

Carpool lanes aren’t just a job for Barbour; they’re a passion.

He says he often grabs a colleague to travel with him so he can take advantage of the carpool lanes on the 105 or 405 as he shuttles between his main office at the Howard Hughes Center near the airport, the job site in Brentwood and Metro’s downtown Los Angeles offices. And when he’s in the carpool lane, “I can just blow by everybody on the 105.” (Get it? He likes carpool lanes.)
Before joining Metro, Barbour, who grew up in Southern California, worked for 8 years as a consultant in the private sector. Earlier, he put in 18 years at Caltrans, including a stint as acting deputy director for design for District 7, which includes Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

If you’ve ever been on the 110/Adams Boulevard HOV lane near downtown Los Angeles, or the Carquinez suspension bridge in Northern California, you know his work.

Before Barbour retired as a major in the Air Force Reserve, he was deployed twice to Iraq—in 2003 and again in 2007. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he says.

Barbour still has a home in Northern California, where he spent much of his career with Caltrans and where his wife works as an attorney. He says he’s looking to buy a place in L.A. soon.

Meanwhile, he’s got lots of 10- and 12-hour days to keep the gears moving on the 405 project. “Everybody wants to get a greener planet,” he says. “But what we’re stuck with is a society where everybody commutes. If you have it, you’ve gotta fix it.”

Posted 1/12/10
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READ RELATED 405 NEWS

The 405 report

January 4, 2010

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Latest news

Updated 5/17/11: Plan now for huge summer 405 closing

Updated 3/03/11: A sharp U-turn on Mulholland

Updated 12/08/10: Wilshire 405 flyover ramps coming

Updated 10/12/10: Skirball Bridge demo—and detours—begin

Updated 05/05/10: Demolition time on Sunset

Updated 3/11/10: Some Westside bus passengers will soon be taking the scenic route.
And Metro would like to apologize for that in advance.

Starting in mid-March, patrons of various Metro bus lines in the Sepulveda Pass and West Los Angeles could be facing delays and detours due to the 405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, which will add a 10-mile northbound carpool lane to the freeway.

Bus lines that travel on the freeway and through the construction area will be affected off and on until the project’s completion, now scheduled for 2013.

Lines slated to be affected are as follows:
• Line 2-302: Sunset Boulevard
• Lines 4 and 704: Santa Monica Boulevard
• Lines 20, 720 and 920: Wilshire Boulevard
• Line 761: Sepulveda Boulevard and 405

Updates also are being posted on Twitter. Metro’s hotline for the project can be reached at (213) 922-3665.

Updated 2/9/10: Work on the 405 carpool lane project has been called off for tonight due to the rain. Weather permitting, it will resume Wednesday evening. Full information can be found here Updates also are being posted on Twitter. Metro’s hotline for the project can be reached at (213) 922-3665.

Updated 1/27/10: After-hours work on the northbound 405 carpool project is expected to resume tonight, Jan. 27, with the full freeway closing from midnight to 5 a.m. between the Santa Monica Freeway and Santa Monica Boulevard. Work is to continue on Thursday and Friday nights, with full freeway closures from midnight to 5 a.m. in the segment that runs from Santa Monica Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard. All lanes should be reopened by 5 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 30. Full information on the closures, including detour maps, can be found here. Updates also are being posted on Twitter. Metro’s hotline for the project can be reached at (213) 922-3665.

Updated 1/22/10: If the rain ever stops, after-hours work to create a northbound carpool lane on the 405 will resume next week with at least three nights of full lane closures planned from midnight to 5 a.m. The work begins at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, with all lanes closing after midnight on the segment of the freeway that runs from the Santa Monica Freeway to Santa Monica Boulevard. The next two nights will be devoted to the segment between Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard, with full freeway closures again planned from midnight to 5 a.m. Workers need to delineate new temporary lanes and install concrete barriers so construction on the 10-mile carpool lane can begin in earnest. Once the temporary lanes are in place, and a construction zone is established, northbound drivers will have the usual five lanes available to them during the three-year project. Full information on the closures, including detour maps, can be found here. Updates also are being posted on Twitter. Metro’s hotline for the project can be reached at (213) 922-3665.

Updated 1/13/09: Because of rain, work on the Sepulveda Pass project to create a northbound carpool lane is now expected to begin on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. The first full freeway closure will take place in the early morning hours of Jan. 15, with all lanes scheduled to reopen by 6 a.m. The work will take place on the segment of the freeway between the Santa Monica Freeway (10) and Santa Monica Boulevard. Full information on the closures, including detour maps, can be found here. Updates also are being posted on Twitter. Metro’s hotline for the project can be reached at (213) 922-3665.

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Surviving the night work on the 405

The lanes on the northbound 405 are about to get skinnier.

And, as with any New Year’s reducing regimen, there will be some pain before the gain.

Starting at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 12, night crews will begin grinding off existing lane markings and restriping them in a narrower configuration to make way for a construction zone on the freeway. It’s the kick-off to eight weeks of intensive nighttime work on the 405 Sepulveda Pass widening project—which will ultimately create a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the 405 between the Santa Monica (10) and Ventura (101) freeways.

After the new lanes are delineated, workers beginning Feb. 8 will spend four weeks installing “k-rail”—concrete barriers to create a work zone for the project. The work will take place from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays through early March, although bad weather could delay things. The entire freeway will need to be closed at various times during the next eight weeks; those closures will take place only between midnight and 5 a.m. Work will proceed in segments, and maps of detours for affected areas are expected to be posted here later this week.

The goal is to keep the same number of lanes available during construction as there are now—a crucial consideration given the heavy usage of the freeway. When the project is finished in the spring of 2013, it will provide a connecting link in the freeway’s carpool lane system extending north from the Orange County line. In the course of the project, workers also will realign 27 on- and off-ramps; widen 13 overpasses and structures; build some 18 miles of retaining and sound walls, and remove and replace bridge overcrossings at the Skirball Center, Sunset Boulevard and Mulholland Drive.

To help ease the pain—and to provide the opportunity for affected residents to troubleshoot the project as it moves forward—monthly meetings are being held with representatives of homeowner groups.

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