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Feature Story - May 2005

Major Freeway Improvements: 1 Done, Another Getting Started

The $125 million improvement to the 405/55 interchange will be completed this month. Meanwhile, a $490 million project to improve traffic flow on the Garden Grove Freeway is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving 2006, a schedule called "aggressive but achievable" by the deputy project director.

By Greg Aragon

With one huge freeway project under way and another just completed, Orange County Transportation Authority is doing its best to stay in the battle.

OCTA senior civil engineer Kory Hariri, left, and Caltrans resident engineer Arsalan Naderi inspect the progress of work at the I-405/SR-55 interchange (photo courtesy of OCTA).

"It's tough to keep up with the population growth in Orange County," said Michael Litschi, OCTA spokesperson. "But we're trying."

The county's population has jumped to 3 million, up from 700,000 in the 1960's.

The agency's current whopper-a $490 million upgrade of the Garden Grove Freeway (State Route 22)-is the most expensive freeway project ever undertaken by the OCTA.

The project consists of adding high-occupancy vehicle carpool lanes and auxiliary lanes in each direction along a 12-mi. stretch of the 22, passing through the cities of Orange, Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Westminster and Cypress.

Other project features include improved on/off ramps, sound mitigation through sound walls, new intelligent transportation systems, lighting and landscaping.

This freeway has had no major improvements since it was built in the 1960s to handle about 115,000 cars a day.

OCTA says that traffic volumes on this freeway currently register more than 200,000 cars per day and are anticipated to reach 350,000 by 2020. When complete, OCTA expects the 22 freeway project to increase rush-hour speeds by as much as 33 mph near the "Orange Crush" interchange-the confluence of Interstate 5, State Route 57 and State Route 22.


The design-build project broke ground in September and is headed by the joint venture team Granite-Myers-Rados, JV. The team is made up of Watsonville-based Granite Construction Co., Rancho Cordova-based C. C. Myers Inc., and Santa Ana-based Steve P. Rados Inc.

The GMR team will provide both design and construction of the officially named SR-22 Improvement Project. Design will be provided by the GMR team through San Francisco-based URS Corp.

This is the first design-build project for OCTA. Caltrans has experience with the method, but this is the first design-build improvement project on an active freeway. According to OCTA, design-build will shave approximately three years off the traditional design-bid-build method of project delivery.

"This project is scheduled to be completed by Thanksgiving 2006, 800 days from groundbreaking," said Jim Laing, Granite's deputy project director. "It's an aggressive but achievable schedule."

The Garden Grove Freeway project is being funded through a combination of sources. 'Measure M,' the half-cent transportation sales tax approved by Orange County voters in 1990, will fund approximately half of the project. The balance is covered by a combination of federal, state and local funds.

OCTA's other big project is the $125 million Interstate 405/State Route 55 Improvement Project, which will be completed this month.

The San Diego Freeway (I-405) and Costa Mesa Freeway (SR-55) interchange is one of the 10 busiest in the nation. This project, which broke ground in 1999, was designed to improve traffic flow in the South Coast Metro and John Wayne Airport areas.

"There is never a moment when there isn't cars," said Bob Schneider of Rancho Cordova-based general contractor C.C. Myers Inc. "Even in the middle of the night, when you think that there aren't that many cars, traffic starts backing up for long distances."

Project highlights include new direct carpool lanes connecting the southbound 55 with the northbound 405 and the reverse. The venture is one of the last components of the 120-mi. HOV or carpool lane system in Orange County.

The I-405/SR-55 Improvement Project was a joint partnership between OCTA and Caltrans. Seventy percent of the project's funding will come from Measure M, and the balance from federal and city of Costa Mesa funds.

C.C. Myers and Sacramento-based MCM Construction served as general contractors.

Currently, all store shells are complete and interior work has begun. About 30 percent of the shops are open, such as Macaroni Grill, Staples, Islands Burgers, See's Candies, Barnes & Noble, Kohl's, Starbuck's and Circuit City. Existing tenants such as Burlington Coat Factory and Mervyn's have remained open during construction, while receiving Tuscan-styled facelifts.

Located off the Beach Boulevard exit of the San Diego (405) Freeway, Bella Terra also features a 1,540-space, six-level Mediterranean-style parking structure, built by Anaheim Hills-based Bomel Construction Co. and designed by Sherman Oaks-based International Parking Design.

Other members of the project team include general contractor Dolan Construction of Irvine (retail core and shell); L.A. Group (landscape architect); and Triple A of Pomona (demolition).


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