Representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Transportation Department, Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority were on hand last week for the groundbreaking of the $400-million West County Connectors project near Garden Grove.

The new interchange, which relies on $50 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will include additional HOV lanes, improve safety and reduce congestion.

The general contractor on the first phase of the project is Atkinson Contractors of Foothill Ranch.

�Projects like the West County Connectors are getting people back to work and are key to getting our economy back on track,� says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. �From coast to coast the Recovery Act is not just creating jobs, its helping workers shore up America�s infrastructure.�

As a gateway for traffic between Los Angeles and Southern California, the SR22/I-405/I-605 interchange is one of the busiest in the nation. More than 327,000 drivers pass through it each day, causing substantial traffic congestion and significant wait times. By adding a second HOV lane in both directions on I-405, the project will reduce traffic congestion and highway noise, and improve local air quality.

When completed in 2014, the connector will improve safety for the thousands of motorists who rely on the SR22, I-405 and I-605 each day. Currently, carpool users must cross multiple general-purpose lanes to get from SR 22 to I-405 and to the I-605, which results in significant weaving � posing risks to all who use these routes.

The West County Connectors project, the second phase of the region�s SR22 HOV project, consists of two segments. The east segment features direct carpool lane connections between the I-405 and SR-22 at Valley View Street. In addition, the first phase will reconstruct the southbound I-405 to eastbound SR-22 connector and reconstruct the Valley View Street bridge crossing over the I-405 and SR-22.

Construction on the second phase of the project near Seal Beach Boulevard is expected to get under way later this year. It will provide direct carpool lane connections between the I-405 and I-605 and reconstruct freeway connections and Seal Beach Boulevard Bridge and 7th Street Bridge.

�This project exemplifies a great use of Recovery funds � it creates jobs, increases safety, reduces congestion, and connects communities here in Southern California,� says Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.