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Orange County

$490-Million Project Will Improve and Widen Garden Grove Freeway

August 24, 2004|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Orange County transportation leaders on Monday approved the first substantial upgrade and widening in 37 years to the Garden Grove Freeway, a congested stretch of highway that includes the Orange Crush interchange.

The Orange County Transportation Authority chose the construction team of Granite Meyers-Rados for a $390-million contract to design and build the improvements.

Granite, based in Watsonville, is a national freeway builder; the two smaller companies in the joint venture -- C.C. Meyers and Rados -- are local construction firms.

The work represents the largest freeway project to be handled by OCTA.

The project will cost $490 million, including buying two homes and portions of several businesses along the route and the temporary relocation of others. Work is expected to take 800 days -- beginning in September and completed by the end of 2006.

The project will widen the freeway along 12 miles, from its eastern connection at the Costa Mesa Freeway to Valley View Street near the San Diego Freeway.

The improvements include building two carpool lanes, adding two auxiliary lanes between the Santa Ana Freeway and Beach Boulevard, elevating the freeway connector with the Orange Freeway at The City Drive to eliminate chronic traffic weaving, and building new on-and-off ramp lanes and additional sound walls.

The work is overdue, said OCTA Board Chairman Gregory T. Winterbottom. The Garden Grove Freeway is Orange County's main east-west link but hasn't had major improvements since it opened in 1967. More than 350,000 commuters use the freeway daily, reducing traffic to stop-and-go speeds.

State transportation officials originally planned to oversee the project and finish it in 2011.

"The people in that area wouldn't stand for having their freeway torn up for so many years," said OCTA Director Chuck Smith, a county supervisor who began prodding three years ago for a quicker schedule. The state allowed OCTA to take over the project and award a tandem contract for designing and building it -- a move officials said saved years in construction time and millions of dollars.

The money for the project will come from $203 million from the county's local transportation sales tax, $101 million in federal funds, and $56 million from the state. Another $11 million will come from cities. The remaining amount -- about $119 million -- will come from either local sales tax money or supplemental state funding that could become available after the election, officials said.

The OCTA board also approved giving $750,000 to unsuccessful bidder Kiewit Pacific to use the designs, concepts and information contained in that company's proposal.

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