By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
Progress doesn’t come easy, or quickly.
West Orange County commuters can expect some delays and maybe even a few detours starting next month and continuing for the next three and a half years. In July, construction crews start work on the Orange County Transportation Authority’s West County Connectors Project.
The WCC project is a joint OCTA and Caltrans venture that connects carpool, or HOV, lanes on the San Diego (405), San Gabriel River (605) and Garden Grove (22) freeways to allow direct freeway changes for carpool lane users. HOV stands for high occupancy vehicle.
“The proposed HOV connector takes you from the centerline of the 22 into the center of the 405 freeway,” OCTA spokesperson and WCC project manager Nile Barrett told the Westminster City Council. “Then we’re constructing new lanes on to the 405 freeway and we’re taking those lanes from the 405 up to the 605 freeway.”
The project is split into two segments. Construction on the East Segment, the Garden Grove freeway and San Diego freeway connection, starts first. Work on the West Segment, which connects the San Diego and San Gabriel River freeways, is expected to begin in October.
Caltrans is leading the actual construction administration and expects to complete the entire project by February 2014. Aside from the new carpool connectors, the project adds a second carpool lane to each direction on the San Diego Freeway between the Garden Grove and San Gabriel River freeways.
The project’s longest closure is the 7th Street Bridge that takes commuters from the 405 North and the 22 West into Long Beach. The bridge will be completely demolished and rebuilt further south. It will be closed for a year.
“We’re widening the 405 just between the 22 and the 605 to include these additional car pool lanes,” Barrett said. “In order to do that we need to demolish the 7th Street offramp.”
Also, the short bridge that connects the eastbound Garden Grove freeway to the northbound 405 freeway will be closed for 10 months, but not at the same time as the 7th Street bridge.
The Valley View Street and Seal Beach Boulevard bridges will also be demolished and rebuilt. Each bridge will be torn down in one-half sections and will not have to be closed, though available traffic lanes would be cut in half.
“The Valley View Street Bridge was constructed to allow us to demolish and reconstruct it in two halves,” Barrett said. “So the idea is to demolish the east half and shift traffic on to the west half and so on.”
Barrett added that the same is true for Seal Beach Boulevard. The Valley View Street Bridge’s westbound on-ramp, which carries traffic to both the northbound San Diego Freeway and the westbound Garden Grove Freeway, will be realigned and will remain open.
All of the on and off ramps at both Valley View Street and Seal Beach Boulevard will be rebuilt.
Both the new Valley View Street Bridge and the 7th Street Bridge will be completed and open to traffic before work begins on either the Seal Beach Boulevard Bridge or the East 22 to North 405 connection. Construction on Valley View Street begins in July and should be finished by February 2012. Construction on the new 7th Street Bridge starts this December and should conclude in November 2011.
Seal Beach Boulevard construction is scheduled to start in May 2012 and will continue until January 2014. The East 22 to North 405 connection will close in December 2011.
“We’re trying to stage it in such a way that the bridges aren’t all being worked on at the same time,” Barrett said.
Other aspects of the project include new sound walls and retaining walls as well as new landscaping and other decorative elements featuring depictions of California wildlife.
In 2006 the total cost of the project was estimated at $400 million. Each segment project is budgeted at $200 million. The East Segment project is getting $150 million from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program and the other $50 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The West Segment project gets its $200 million from the Corridor Mobility Improvement Act. In April the California Transportation Commission allocated $186.3 million for the WCC project. Most of that money came from Proposition 1B, a transportation bond that voters approved in 2006.
The OCTA headed up the design portion of the project and is in charge of community outreach. As part of its community outreach, the OCTA is hosting several open houses to explain the project, including one at the Westminster Council Chambers on June 8 from 6 to 8 p.m.
For more information on the project and the schedule of open houses, the public is encouraged to contact OCTA community relations manager Christina Byrne at (714) 560-5717 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Project information can also be found at www.octa.net/westcounty.