About a year after Metro completed its improvements of the Sepulveda Pass section of the 405 freeway, traffic has improved, rush hour has shrunk and the number of accidents has dropped, according to a study commissioned by the agency.
The study found that while the project has not brought down wait times during rush hour (a previous study found they've actually gone up by a minute), there are reasons to celebrate.
After five years of construction — including two Carmageddons, a Jamzilla and countless detours and delays — a carpool lane was added to the Northbound side, two bridges were rebuilt and several on and off-ramps were lengthened.
According to the new study:
- Rush hour has been reduced from seven hours to five. The peak drive period formerly lasted from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. It's now lost an hour on either side, going from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- Wait times on Northbound 405 have become less variable, making for easier planning
- Wait times during non-peak hours have been reduced.
- The number of accidents reported has dropped by about 15 percent.
- Traffic on major arteries in surrounding areas (like Sunset and Sepulveda Boulevards) has dropped between 20 and 25 percent.
- Capacity has improved: 15 percent more cars pass through on an hourly basis, and use of the carpool lane has translated to a nearly 30 percent increase in the number of people passing through every hour.
The corridor from Interstate 10 to U.S. 101 near Westwood is consistently ranked among the most congested stretches of highway in the country.
Aziz Elattar, who heads Metro's Highway programs, stressed that it's important to look at the project not only in terms of the benefits it gained, but also the hassles it avoided.
"If we had done nothing, things would have been a lot worse,” he said.
He pointed to study projections that showed a 35 percent increase in wait times had the project not been completed.