New 405 Fwy HOV lanes open in West L.A.

BRENTWOOD, Calif. To the surprise of some, there was no ribbon cutting ceremony or photo opportunity with civic leaders, but you can bet they were quietly celebrating the opening of the final stretch of carpool lane on the southbound 405 Freeway.

And now, Southern Californians can cross their fingers that it helps ease congestion and tension.

The first real test of L.A.'s newest carpool lane has gone swimmingly well.

"It's an early gift for the carpoolers, and some reporter mentioned that he was going full speed. You can see the difference right now. We are watching it ourselves, and we are monitoring every operation. It's very smooth," said Raja Mitwasi of Caltrans.

It took five years and $167 million to build a carpool lane on the southbound 405 from the 10 Freeway interchange to the Marina Freeway. The project's completion means the entire southbound 405 Freeway has an HOV lane from the San Fernando Valley to the El Toro Y.

"Whenever you have a gap in the system, it's good to have a delay. Since we closed the gap, it means we have a continuing system. There's no reason for the carpoolers to leave the HOV lanes. The carpool lanes have continuous movement of traffic, and that's why we did expect to have a positive result," explained Mitwasi.

Mitwasi says the new carpool lane will reduce congestion and accidents on a freeway that sees 350,000 cars daily. But he also says it will help improve air quality and save drivers one minute per mile.

"That open lane is going to make just big adjustments for everybody between the marina and the 105; it's just so jammed," said motorist Catrine Lopez.

"California is not getting smaller. The population is growing. They should have added two more lanes on each side," said another motorist Sheldon Berger.

The final stage of this five-year project is getting the northbound carpool lanes open between the 10 and 90 freeways. That's expected to happen just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

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