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405 Freeway reopening in O.C. welcome news to weary motorists

August 18, 2013|By Matt Hamilton
  • Demolition crews work on bridge removal project on 405 Freeway in Orange County.
Demolition crews work on bridge removal project on 405 Freeway in Orange… (Matt Hamilton / Los Angeles…)

The early reopening of a four-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway in Orange County is welcome news for motorists who have been forced to take a maze of detours along surface streets, with traffic becoming increasingly sluggish Sunday afternoon.

The southbound lanes of the 405 between the 605 and 22 freeways are set to reopen at 1:45 p.m., said Sarah King, a Caltrans spokeswoman. The northbound lanes at Valley View Street will reopen at 2:45 p.m., she said.

The closure has allowed workers to demolish a 50-year-old connector bridge as part of a $277-million project to link carpool lanes between the 405, 22 and 605 freeways. The last section of the bridge was knocked down about 5:30 a.m. Sunday and was being broken up and hauled away.  

The affected section of the 405 is one of the busiest stretches of road in the country, with more than 300,000 vehicles passing through on an average summer weekend day.

Motorists have had a few options for detours, including using the 5 and 91 freeways. Those who choose to brave the southbound 405 could use Katella and Westminster avenues or Studebaker Road to bypass the closure.

Northbound motorists are able to exit at Valley View Street but can get back on the freeway using the westbound 22, which merges with the northbound 405.

Still, Cameron Wood, who was filling up the gas tank on her Range Rover for a trip to Laguna Niguel, was lamenting the delay she would have to endure. She said she lives near Studebaker and usually hops on the 405 Freeway to make the trip, but instead was forced to drive down Westminster Avenue to enter the freeway at Valley View.

“I’d usually be by South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa by now,” she said. 

Art Patino, who travels between Surfside and South Gate every day, said he has seen all the warning signs about the temporary freeway closure for weeks and sought to use a detour on the 605 Freeway. He advised fellow motorists to be patient.

“People don’t like change,” he said. “But when the highway repairs are done, they love it.”

Transportation officials have been referring to the closure as the "Bridge Bash," but the Orange County Register, not satisfied with the moniker, held a naming contest. Suggestions included Orangeageddon, Carzilla and Clogwork Orange. Orange Jam was the winner.

The demolition of the 700-foot connector bridge, which connected the southbound 405 to the eastbound 22 before a new bridge opened in July, will create about 3,600 tons of concrete debris, officials said. Much of the closure will be spent clearing the rubble.

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matthew.hamilton@latimes.com

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