Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Employee Spotlight
The intrepid northbound I-405 HOV lane Design Squad: Front (L to R), Myrna Dominguez, Artura Salazar, Ida Sedler. Top (L to R), Le Nguyen, Inocencio Reynon, Darryl Mays, Aline Antaramian, Hien Nguyen and Rene Yin.

by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 08/2008

Designing the unknown: I-405 design team is up for the challenge.

The northbound San Diego Freeway (I-405) HOV lane from the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) to the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) is the first design/build project in the district and the Design B squad working on it has faced some unique challenges.

Among the differences between design/build and a typical design assignment are the time frame and the additional procedures resulting from greater involvement on the part of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), which is the contract administrator per the legislation authorizing the HOV project.  “They are very hands-on and involved in every aspect of this project,” said squad leader Rene Yin, which means a lot of time spent in meetings.

The squad is doing what is called preliminary engineering, which for certain project elements can be as much as 70 percent of the design and for others 35 percent or less. The design/build contractor will be responsible for the final design details and will complete the Plans, Specifications and Estimate (PS&E).

Under the Supervision of Design Chief Aline Antaramian, the squad includes Yin; Le Nguyen; Darryl Mays; Hien Nguyen; Myrna Dominguez; Arturo Salazar; Ida Sedler; and Inocencio Reynon.

All of them are feeling the pressure right now. The $950 million project will be advertised in September with bids to be opened before the end of the year; construction will begin in spring 2009. With a lot of work left to do, squad members are burning the midnight oil (or diodes) and coming in on weekends. “It’s stressful,” Salazar said, garnering concurring nods from his squad-mates.

They should know that their dedication is noted and appreciated. “A hard-working team has brought this project up to this point,” said District 7 Director Doug Failing. “I’m looking forward to District 7 demonstrating that, if design/build is to be done in the State of California, we here know how to make it a success.”

While most of the attention is focused on the HOV lane, the project has other components that are particularly exciting to the designers, including a new $25 million bridge over Mulholland Drive, which Salazar said will be a “signature bridge.” Other improvements include a redesign of the Wilshire Boulevard Interchange to eliminate weaving.

Yin called the design/build process “sort of creative” because quick solutions are needed amid a lot of unknowns. “Design/build makes you work really quickly, but our squad has met the challenge,” he said.

“The I-405 project is a partnership between Caltrans, the City of Los Angeles, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Metro and, later on, the design/build contractor,” said Antaramian. “It’s the teamwork, cooperation and understanding between the partners that has made this project a successful one; most importantly, it's the willingness of each agency to look at their process and adjust it so that the product will be delivered as soon as possible to the traveling public.”


The I-405 Mulholland Bridge today (top) and the way it will look after the project is completed.