The 405 Sepulveda Pass Widening: Is This Really Worth It?

Streetsblog has been plenty critical of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project which will will add a 10-mile HOV lane and widen lanes from the Santa Monica Fwy. (I-10) to the Ventura Fwy. (US-101).  The project is back in the news after the most recent round of closures created ire among drivers angry with the lack of public notice.

Highway widening projects don't cure congestion, just ask the more progressive transportation agencies in the country.

For some reason, few people ever question the “time savings” for drivers associated with freeway expansion projects by considering the amount of time lost during construction.  For this particular widening, we’ve already experienced “Carmageddon” and there are so many lane and ramp closures associated with the project that the project’s homepage at has gone from a public relations greenwashing  to just a sad list of closures.  At least some of the more spectacular closures have fun graphics.  Go ahead, check it out.

Even with all of the public relations tools at their disposal, Metro doesn’t always get the news on these closures out.  Monday’s Which Way L.A. on KCRW focused on the lack of notice for the most recent round of closures that left many motorists unprepared for the traffic they’re going to face.

The project has caused an untold number of hours of delay already, and this isn’t even taking into account Carmageddon II (coming next summer) or the “Rampture” (planned 90 day closures of the Wilshire Blvd. 405 Freeway on- and off-ramps).  I honestly don’t know one person, and yes I do know people that drive on the I-405, that thinks this project will have any lasting impact.  But I know plenty that believe it has already impacted their commutes, but not in the way that Metro and Caltrans had hoped.

All this, for well over $1 billion.  It’s a shame that all this effort is being put in, when the number of L.A. County residents that choose to carpool has been dropping for the last two decades.

  • Anonymous

    We live in the Valley and commute to the Westside, and we choose to do so by bus. What amazes me is that LADOT apparently has made no effort to include its own Commuter Express in the planning for these closures–there has been virtually no notice given to riders, and no adjustments made to schedules in order to deal with the traffic issues. And the commute just keeps getting worse. I’m seriously hoping to get a new job on my side of the hill before the Rampture.

  • Oliver

    My hope is that in 10 years the HOV lane will be converted to light, and since the ROW will already be built out, it’ll just require laying some tracks.

  • Are you saying that we can’t just widen it again when it fills up? what a downer!

  • Ramon

    I would say it’s a total waste given the costs associated. The entire Gold Line Eastside Extension cost about 900 million with its two miles of twin tunnels, 8 miles of track and 8 stations.

    Meanwhile we’re spending 1 billion dollars on a single northbound carpool lane that has no busway stations or transit component whatsoever.

  • Anonymous

     The HOV lanes are all going to be converted to Express (Toll) Lanes which only locals can use, and only local buses too.

    $1 Billion would have built a Crenshaw Line ready Rail tunnel under Sepulveda Pass that could be used by electric buses (or better yet cyclists!) in the interim.  But we’ll continue to ignore the “Sacred Bull in the China Shop”:

  • Anonymous

    This won’t have a lasting effect because HOV lanes, just like regular freeway lanes, lack congestion management.

  • Juan Matute

    No, it’s not worth it.  At some point we in Los Angeles will have a serious discussion about two things:

    1. Transportation network performance metrics: whether we should be maximizing the movement of cars or the movement of people.  Current auto-oriented level-of-service metrics do a disservice in congested regions such as Los Angeles.2. Whether or not we should restructure existing transportation facilities in order to maximize the throughput of people. This will lead to a serious discussion about taking lanes for transit priority and high occupancy vehicle priority.  The current practice of only adding new HOV lanes rather than converting existing mixed flow lanes means that HOV lanes can only be added through expensive, disruptive multi-year capital projects.  All of the low-hanging fruit (easy-to-build capacity expansions) have been exhausted in congested areas.

    A few commenters have rightly pointed out that demand-side congestion management is the only policy that will speed up all lanes of congested facilities such as the 405.  As long as transit moves smoothly through these facilities the transportation choice that congestion pricing affords would be realized, albeit without the corresponding revenue gains congestion pricing could bring.

  • Murphy girl

    It took me 3 hours this morning — door to door — from Northridge to Santa Monica. I left my house at 7:45 a.m., arrived at my location in Santa Monica at 10:50 a.m. 

  • cph

    Since this project is going to be built, we might as well advocate for more and better bus service along these lanes. The current Metro + LADOT, etc. is a start, but we need much more.

    Carpooling, etc. is dropping partly because carpools take a while to organize, and the job situtation is not nearly as stable as it was decades ago. (No more working in one place for 50 years and retiring with a gold wattch, it seems.)

    I’m a big proponent of rail between the Valley and Westside, but until we can make that happen, let’s “fight with the army we have.”

  • Mark Elliot

    >Are you saying that we can’t just widen it again when it fills up? what a downer!

    On the contrary: the craziness is that we *will* again widen it. But because all of our grander plans and high aspirations will have fallen by the wayside, we’ll be calling it an Apollo program for the next generation. Of course, that generation will still be paying off our extra lanes, so they’ll have to sell some bonds for that future $10B expansion project. Bond sellers will have it no other way!


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Media Praises I-405 Widening Project, Tough Questions Unanswered

Photo: Gentleman of Sophistication and Refinement/Flickr Last Friday, local media outlets participated in a rally for the Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, that would widen the I-405 to connect carpool lanes between the I-10 and I-101, with Governor Schwarzenegger, Mayor Villaraigosa and various other union and public officials.  Using an uncritical media to amplify their claims, […]