The massive 405 Freeway widening project through the Sepulveda Pass is 12 months behind schedule and over budget by at least $75 million, transportation officials said Thursday.
Causing more delays for commuters and headaches for local homeowners, the $1 billion car-pool lane won't finish until at least mid-2014, officials said.
Construction was originally supposed to wrap next month. Last year, officials gave a new completion date of December 2013.
"This project has been jinxed almost from the beginning," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who sits on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "I am very disappointed at the contractor, and how they have handled this project."
Construction started in 2009 on the new 10-mile car-pool lane, which will connect the 10 and 101 freeways when finished. The 405 Freeway links the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, and the new car-pool lane was supposed to ease congestion in one of the busiest traffic corridors in the country.
But contractor Kiewit has encountered numerous setbacks, said MTA spokesman Dave Sotero, citing issues ranging from a faulty freeway retaining wall to the discovery of numerous utilities under Sepulveda Boulevard.
Yaroslavsky was more blunt: "There's been bad construction. They should have known about those utility lines."
The enormous project requires heavy,
nearly round the clock construction, which has led to regular traffic delays and diversions for commuters. Work regularly starts about 1 or 2 a.m., and homeowners around Sepulveda Boulevard say they suffer with constant noise and vibration.
Additionally, commuters have experienced significant delays in the last year and a half, with shutdowns around Wilshire Boulevard for the construction of new ramps.
Homeowners describe changing their entire schedules, scheduling doctor's appointments at off times, or leaving the house later in the day to avoid the morning commute.
Additionally, amid complaints from residents and car owners about alleged damage to homes and vehicles near the construction site, Yaroslavsky has asked Metro's Office of Inspector General to review claims filed to contractor Kiewit Corp.
A report is expected in June.
"Everyone is just worn out," said Laurie Kelson, who chairs the Transportation Committee of the Encino Neighborhood Council. " A lot more people are sticking closer to home. You don't drive unless you have to."
The Los Angeles Times first reported news of the year-long delay Thursday.
In a statement, Thomas C. Janssen, spokesman for contractor Kiewit said there have been "significant challenges" and cited the project's overall complexity.
"Kiewit and Metro are committed to working together to minimize future delays and resolve final costs," Janssen said. "We value our relationship with Metro and are committed to delivering the highest-quality product on the I-405 project."
Despite a pushback in the overall completion of the project, some sections of the car-pool lane will open before next year, which should ease traffic, Sotero said. A 2.5-mile section near the southern end of the 405 Freeway will open this summer. Other segments are also expected to reopen next year, Sotero said.
He also stated the method of construction is speeding up completion of the project by seven years.
David C. Murphy, president of Angelenos to End Gridlock, which was formed to bring attention to delays of the 405 Freeway project, said he was recently given a $50,000 check by entrepreneur Elon Musk to help fund his nonprofit.
Murphy hopes the attention on the delays will convince Metro and Kiewit to hire more staff to finish the job sooner.
"We're saying, get this thing done," Murphy said.
Locals like Kelson have quietly criticized the addition of another freeway lane, stating that it's not a long-term solution to traffic congestion. While the MTA is also studying other transit options, like putting a tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass, some locals say the car-pool lane was a waste of money.
Asked if he would vote again to add the new car-pool lane if he knew about all the delays, Yaroslavsky said he was uncertain.
"I couldn't honestly say with a straight face I would do it again," Yaroslavsky said.