The Sunset Boulevard bridge, at the middle of this frame, was closed in July… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)
Two years and two months after demolition and reconstruction work began, a wider and stronger Sunset Boulevard bridge over the 405 Freeway is set to reopen Monday.
The reopening marks a breakthrough in the $1-billion 405-widening project, which has created epic traffic jams and led to unprecedented full-freeway closures. The Sunset bridge was the first of several spans to go under the jackhammer, in July 2010, and will be the first to reopen.
At 5 a.m. Monday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and transportation officials will be on hand as workers remove traffic cones and open two new lanes on the busy bridge, traversed by as many as 22,000 vehicles on a typical weekday.
The bridge has been seismically upgraded and widened by 30 feet, to 120 feet, as part of the massive project to add a northbound carpool lane to the 405, one of the nation's busiest highways. The bridge has grown from six lanes to eight and includes two dedicated-turn lanes in each direction.
The structure is also about 5 feet higher than its predecessor and contains new water and utility lines.
"This is an important milestone in the project," said Vivian Rescalvo, transportation deputy for Yaroslavsky. "We're hoping with this bridge opening, people start to feel better about the traffic situation."
Yaroslavsky is a member of the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which teamed with the California Department of Transportation to build the project.
The bridge had to grow to accommodate the northbound carpool lane the project is adding on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass. That addition will fill the last gap in the 405 carpool lane network between Orange County and the San Fernando Valley. When completed, it will be the longest continuous carpool lane, at 48 miles, in the country, said Metro spokesman Dave Sotero.
Traffic along Sunset, particularly eastbound, has been sluggish for many years as the boulevard has increasingly provided a route from the ocean to downtown Los Angeles via Brentwood, UCLA, several private schools and other destinations. Years of mobility-crushing construction and frequent detours and closures have left residents and commuters weary and frustrated.
The bridge's reopening comes as good news for residents who have often felt trapped by construction and congestion.
"Everybody's glad," said Cori Solomon, president of the Brentwood Glen Assn., a neighborhood just west of the 405. "What we're hoping is it will alleviate some of the traffic on Sunset Boulevard because it will be wider."
At the least, the reopening is a glimmer of good news as motorists brace for Carmageddon II, next weekend's planned full-freeway closure of the northbound and southbound 405. During that shutdown, construction crews will demolish the northern half of the Mulholland Drive bridge so that the span can be widened.