Angelenos survived Carmageddon II after all, but, unfortunately, drivers continue to confront the real doomsday scenario every day on the 405, with Armageddon-worthy gridlock being the daily norm. The ongoing construction work only adds to the mind-bending congestion that existed even before the Sepulveda Pass improvement project started. As work continues, and with so much time to sit in traffic with nothing to do but sit and think, drivers can’t help but conclude we do infrastructure construction – roads, rail transit and, some day, high-speed rail – far too slowly.
In this modern era of instant gratification, we in California (and the nation) are still stuck moving at a molasses pace planning and building our transportation infrastructure. And it’s costing residents and businesses hugely in terms of lost productivity, and also leading us to fall behind other parts of the world that are quickly expanding infrastructure and laying the foundation for economic growth, not to mention better quality of life.
Just how long do we take? Looking at the San Diego (405) Freeway project as an example, back when the draft environmental planning documents were released in 2007 (itself a relatively late milestone, as the project was initiated in 2001, then aborted due to state budget problems), consider the context. George W. Bush was in the White House. Citizens were preparing to line up to get the very first iPhone and the final “Harry Potter” book. The crew of the space shuttle Endeavor was getting ready for a flight to the International Space Station.
Today, the iPhone 5 is already old news and the four “Harry Potter” movies released in the intervening years are fading from memory. Space shuttles completed 18 launches off the planet, and Endeavor has arrived at its new home in Los Angeles, perhaps to be replaced by a locally built Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) spacecraft that’s already achieved two visits to the space station. But back on Earth, we are still nowhere near done with the Sepulveda Pass freeway project.
By Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates, the 405 project is about four to six months behind schedule, and Metro said, “Contractor performance, (Mechanically Stabilized Earth) Wall failures, VA, Getty, and Area 4 (utility relocations near Sunset Boulevard) are the main issues.” Metro, lead contractor Kiewit and third parties need to do everything possible to safely expedite work, as delays exacerbate the impact on the hundreds of thousands of drivers – and drivers’ businesses and families – who use the 405, the nation’s busiest and most congested freeway, every day.
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