At its most recent meeting, the OCTA Board of Directors selected OC 405 Partners to design and construct the I-405 Improvement Project, a major step in speeding travel times for roughly 370,000 daily drivers between Costa Mesa and the Los Angeles County line. The contract awarded for project design and construction is $1.2 billion.
The project, set to begin construction next year, includes adding one regular lane in each direction – as promised in Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements – and building the 405 Express Lanes in the center of the freeway.
“Awarding this design-build contract is a significant milestone,” said OCTA Chair Lori Donchak. “We look forward to breaking ground on the single largest project OCTA has undertaken. The I-405 is one of the busiest highways in the nation and we want to make it easier for the millions of people driving through this area.”
The project is the first in the state being built using the design-build authority provided under Assembly Bill 401 by Assemblyman Tom Daly, passed in 2013. AB 401 provides authority for regional transportation agencies and Caltrans to use the design-build method of project delivery on state highway projects, resulting in cost and time savings.
“The I-405 Improvement Project has been an unprecedented joint effort between OCTA, the California State Transportation Agency, Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration, state legislators and local cities,” said OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson. “After many years of hard work and dedication from multiple individuals and agencies, I am excited to see the start of the project’s design and construction.”
The OCTA board also approved a toll operating agreement with Caltrans to address matters related to the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the 405 Express Lanes. The 405 Express Lanes will be the first project in the state to use the tolling authority provided last year under AB 194. This authority is key to ensuring that operations, funding and investment decisions for the express lanes respect local planning and funding priorities.
The total I-405 Improvement Project cost is $1.9 billion and will be funded with a combination of local, state and federal funds. OCTA is currently pursuing a federal TIFIA loan to fund a significant portion of the project.
In addition to constructing the new lanes, the project will rebuild 18 bridges and improve freeway access and traffic on local streets. All of this work is critical to accommodate expected employment, population and housing growth in not only Orange County, but throughout the region. Traffic on I-405 is anticipated to grow by 30 percent in the next 25 years.
The 405 Express Lanes portion of the project is being modeled after the successful 91 Express Lanes, owned and operated by OCTA. With the 405 Express Lanes, solo drivers will have the choice to pay a toll to speed up their commute. Carpools of two or more people can use the 405 Express Lanes for free for the first 3 ½ years after opening. Cars with three or more people will use the express lanes for free at all times.
The 405 Express Lanes adds a quicker option for drivers traveling through the area. Funding additional lanes with tolling creates the opportunity to move more traffic through the region, improve speeds and enable people to get where they are going in a predictable amount of time.
In 2040, it’s expected to take 29 minutes to travel during rush hour from SR-73 to I-605 in the regular lanes. That commute can be cut down to 13 minutes if a driver chooses to take the 405 Express Lanes. Without the project it would take 2 hours and 13 minutes to travel that stretch of freeway in the regular lanes or 2 hours in the carpool lanes.
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