Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Directors Zone

by  Douglas R. Failing
Issue Date: 04/2007

The workhorse of California’s seamless freeway transportation system is the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV), or carpool lane.  Carpool lanes are a major factor in freeway congestion relief and improving mobility across California, saving motorists an average one minute per mile during commute hours.  In fact, California has more carpool lanes than any other state in the nation; and District 7 has more carpool lanes than any other District in the State! 

And because of carpool lanes, Caltrans is one step closer to a seamless transportation system, especially on the San Diego Freeway (I-405).  What I am referring to is the last segment of carpool lanes to be constructed on northbound I-405 from the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) to U. S. 101.  This segment will finish the HOV network on I-405, and when completed, will provide motorists a carpool lane from I-5 in the northern San Fernando Valley to the Orange County line! 

What also different about this last segment is that it will involve a unique design/build process that will allow Caltrans, by special legislation, to design and construct this  project simultaneously.  Senate Bill 1026 authorizes Caltrans to utilize a unique “design sequencing as an alternate constructing method for the design and construction of this project.”  What this means is that while one phase of the project is designed and constructed, additional phases of the project are also being designed simultaneously.    This process will allow District 7 to complete the project sooner and provide less impacts to the motoring public.  This is the first project of its kind in District 7 and has been strongly supported by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the legislature and the public through Proposition 1B.

With this important, major progress also comes the possibility of impacting homeowners and businesses along this portion of I-405.  Caltrans realizes that the acquisition of some properties may be experienced.  At this time, five different alternatives are being studied and the final decisions will be based on these studies, as well as the public comments submitted at future public hearings.  Already two community hearings were held on March 20 in West Los Angeles and March 22 in the San Fernando Valley.  These essential meetings have helped to keep the public informed every step of the way.  And the public hearings will provide the community a forum where their concerns and comments are heard and taken into consideration, and questions answered.  Caltrans  works hard to keep impacts and property acquisitions to a minimum, and this project is no exception. However for the greater good, impacts are sometimes unavoidable. 

This project is still in the environmental phase, which is expected to complete this summer.  After the public comments are considered and the study completed, the preferred alternative will be made public.  If property acquisitions will be forthcoming, our Right of Way personnel will closely assist property owners to assure that the transitions are fair and equitable and progress as smoothly as possible.  Additional information will be forthcoming on this freeway improvement project this summer.  Completion of this project will be another step toward relieving congestion and improving mobility

It has been very rewarding to see that the subject of transportation – and improving it – has been brought to the forefront in recent months.  We are reading more about it in the newspapers, we see it on television and hear about it on the radio.  And there has been much support for transportation improvements from the California Transportation Commission, our elected officials, and once again especially Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayor Villaraigosa. 

This time is our opportunity to move forward – forward with capital improvement projects; forward with operating our freeways in the most efficient and effective manner possible; forward with continuing to plan projects that will make a difference; forward with maintaining and upkeep of our world-class freeway system; and forward in partnership as we continue to reach out as a member of a vast team with one common purpose  – to provide a seamless transportation system for the people of California.