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MTA Agrees to Help Fund Interchange Expansion Project

Freeways: Agency will pay 20% of planned $13.1-million upgrade of the 405 and 101 junction.

January 29, 1999|SUE FOX | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed Thursday to partially fund an estimated $13.1-million improvement project at the crowded junction of the San Diego and Ventura freeways.

The MTA will fund 20% of the planned upgrade, which will add one lane to the connector between the northbound San Diego Freeway and the southbound Ventura Freeway and another lane from Mulholland Drive to Ventura Boulevard on the San Diego Freeway.

David Fleming, a Valley activist who sits on the California Transportation Commission, said the local funding commitment virtually ensures that the commission will approve the remaining 80% in state funds for the project.

"It is a forgone conclusion that it will be approved," Fleming said. "We already told Caltrans, 'The money's there, get started.' "

The MTA's action comes in the wake of another powerful shove toward completing work proposed for the clogged interchange, which carries 550,000 vehicles daily. Last week, a request from Gov. Gray Davis to accelerate work on road projects statewide prompted California Transportation Department officials to speed up planned improvements at the San Diego and Ventura freeway interchange by more than a year. To save time, Caltrans is simultaneously conducting an environmental review and designing the road improvements.

Assemblyman Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles), who has steadily pushed to secure approval for the upgrade, agreed that the project was finally on track.

"At this point, it looks like mission accomplished here" at the MTA, Knox said. "I have to believe it's in great shape now."

Fleming said state funding should be approved by mid-February. State officials have previously estimated the cost of the freeway fix at $13.1 million, but Fleming said the price could be slightly higher, depending upon the bids.

According to Caltrans' new timeline, ground could be broken on the project in early 2001.

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