It is now winter of 2013, and and LA residents still find themselves detouring through city streets in attempt to find any 405 freeway entrance that is open. The closures usually occur past 10:00 p.m. on weekdays, as the city looks to improve what is considered the worst traffic congested freeway in California.
Currently, the focus of CalTrans has been aimed towards the Westwood area, where just about every onramp leading to the 405 North has at some point been under construction. At first look the plan would appear to only make sense. Why wouldn’t the city intend on improving traffic flow on the highest congested freeway in the state? Some are in fact thrilled over the upcoming improvements that will include two additional lanes on both sides of the freeway. However, the majority appear to be fed up with the near constant detouring. Not to mention the fact that traffic has become even worse due to the ongoing construction.
“Every night I have to drive home to Porter Ranch from the UCLA Medical Center, and every night I find myself searching for any open 405 north ramp for over 30 minutes,” says LA resident Josephine Fernandez. “Its dangerous too. One night I was detoured all the way to Pico in Santa Monica, and it was so chaotic that cars kept coming close to hitting each other, trying to squeeze in the next [405 north] freeway entrance.”
The city has already gone through two “carmageddons,” which caused a lot of chaos around the city, essentially blocking off many popular establishments in Southern California, such as the Santa Monica Pier, LAX, and UCLA. The 405 is also a common route used to get to downtown LA, an area that features LA Live, the Nokia Theatre, Staples Center, USC, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It goes without saying that the states most highly congested freeway, has now become probably the states most unreliable freeway.
“It makes it tough. Some of us aren’t as route savvy as others and we can’t just find our way around the city as well as others. Especially for someone like myself who’s not from this city or state,” says Oregon native Harold Lawler. “My daughter attends UCLA, and she doesn’t have a car because she lives on campus, so whenever I drop her off her pick her up on weekends, I find myself worries about which ramp or street is going to be closed, and when they are closed, It’s difficult for me to find my way around. In a city where you need to drive just about everywhere, it would be great to be able to rely on most routes.”
But aside from causing a hinderance, the construction has burned a hole in residents’ wallet’s as well. The money that is being spent for the widening of the freeway, along with the Sepulveda Pass project has exceeded its original budget of $1 billion.
“I just feel like the city should be more concerned about public transportation,” says UCLA student Jason Landers. “Thats what they should really be focused on. After we add these lanes, you’re just going to get more cars. If this was federal money, I don’t think folks would be as bugged by it, but we’ve spent billions of dollars for an improvement thats only going to make a slight different. [It’s] Not like this cities suddenly going to have a wonderful traffic flow ”
While many residents are angered by the ongoing and seemingly never ending construction, a member of the cities construction team, Alvin Henley, dared to provide a different prospective.
“At some point, you just have to improve these freeways. The traffic is horrible just about every day, and don’t tell me people were content with that. Residents just have to remain patient, and see that all of this is worth it. Sure we’re never going to have a traffic free city, but what city is? The bottom line is LA is much worse than others and something needs to be done. I can assure commuters one thing, there will be enough of a difference made to make being on time to places much easier.”
By CalTrans calculations, time stuck in traffic will be reduced by more than 13 million hours per year, that’s an average of nearly fourteen hours per year for each regular user of the 405. So considering the amount of money that is being spent on the entire project, that boils down to an estimated total of ten minutes saved by drivers on their daily commute. Ten minutes may not seem like much, but consider how many times you have wished to have an extra ten minutes to avoid being late for work. Whether those extra ten minutes are worth the tax payers money that is being spent, is up for LA residents to decide.