COSTA MESA (CBSLA) – An extensive $1.9 billion five-year project to widen the 405 Freeway in Orange County was underway Friday with a groundbreaking ceremony.
The I-405 Improvement Project will add one regular lane in both directions to a 16-mile stretch of the freeway from State Route 73 in Costa Mesa north to the Los Angeles-Orange County border at the 605 Freeway. It will also add express lanes in each direction that will be combined with the existing carpool lanes to form express toll lanes, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).
The toll lanes will be free for carpoolers, the OCTA said.
About 305 homes near the freeway will be affected during construction because crews will need access to private property to build retaining walls.
Construction begins in August and the project is expected be complete in 2023. It is being mostly-funded by Measure M, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters back in 2006 to fund 30 years of transportation projects. In July, the OCTA finalized a $629 million loan from the federal government towards the project. Revenue from drivers who pay for the toll lanes will finance the loan, the OCTA said.
The OCTA claims the loan allowed it to save $300 million in interest. More than $1 billion will come from the sales tax and bond proceeds, $90 million from state funds and $46 million from federal funds.
The 405 is the most heavily traveled freeway in the nation at the county line, getting between 257,000 and 370,000 vehicles per day. Experts predict a 35 percent increase in traffic by 2040.
When complete, the improvements are expected to cut down on travel time by more than two-thirds.
Without the project, OCTA predicts that in 2040, it will take drivers in a regular lane an estimated 133 minutes to get from Costa Mesa to the county line. In a carpool lane, that same trip will average 121 minutes.
However, with the improvements, it will take drivers 29 minutes in regular lanes, and 13 minutes in express lanes.
The groundbreaking ceremony began at 9 a.m. in the Ikea parking lot in Costa Mesa.