405 widening project runs into overtime and over cost

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Interstate 405

(AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The massive project to widen the San Diego Freeway will take at least a year longer than first anticipated and cost about $100 million more than the originally budgeted $1 billion, officials said in remarks published today.

The companies handling the work won praise when they were able to reopen the freeway ahead of schedule during the so-called Carmageddon events in 2011 and 2012. But that masked a larger problem for the main contractor, Kiewit, and the subcontractors, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Officials now aim to complete the bulk of the project by June 2014, with work on the problematic middle segment between Montana Avenue and Sunset Boulevard lasting perhaps until next fall, Michael Barbour, the veteran engineer overseeing the project for the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told the newspaper.

The delays and cost overruns are raising the ire of both residents and local officials, who say the project is causing major disruptions throughout the already traffic-clogged Westside.

“This project has been horribly managed,” Zev Yaroslavsky, a Los Angeles County supervisor and board member of Metro, which is running the project, told The Times. “The performance of contractors has left a lot to be desired. … They’ve shown a complete lack of sensitivity and empathy for the community in which they’re doing the work.”

Asked why he and other elected officials have not publicly prodded the contractor to enlist more workers and equipment to speed the project, Yaroslavsky said: “Where’s the money going to come from? This project is over budget by a considerable amount, and Metro hasn’t figured out how it’s going to cover the cost overruns, let alone incur additional costs.”

Several factors have driven the delays, including the structural failure of miles of new sound walls that had to be demolished and rebuilt, a legal wrangle over the placement of ramps near the Getty Center and the complex logistics of finding and relocating more than a dozen utility lines under Sepulveda Boulevard, The Times reported.

The 405 is a vital north-south artery that carries about 300,000 vehicles a day and frequently becomes clogged under the best of circumstances.

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