For Southern California drivers wondering what’s up with the worse-than-usual congestion on the San Bernardino (Interstate 10) Freeway, here’s a bit of good news: It could be a lot worse.
Yes, the California Department of Transportation’s $165 million I-10/San Bernardino Freeway Restoration project involves dozens of lane and ramp closures on the stretch of road between the Golden State (I-5) Freeway just east of downtown L.A. and the San Gabriel River (I-605) Freeway in El Monte. But at least most of the work is happening during off hours.
“The majority of the work occurs at night, and we’re working six days a week – or six nights a week, currently,” says John Harrington, president of Foothill Ranch-based Atkinson Contractors, the general contractor for the project. “It also involves some weekend closures of the HOV [High-Occupancy Vehicle] lanes, in which by contract we shut them for 55 hours over the weekend, starting Friday night and opening them again on Monday morning. Construction actually goes on around the clock during those 55 hours.”
Work on the I-10 restoration, one of several high-profile freeway projects under way in Southern California, began in early 2009 and is scheduled for completion in spring of next year. The effort includes the complete resurfacing of the road, in both directions, between the I-5 and I-605. The resurfacing alone is a massive undertaking, given that the I-10’s San Gabriel arm is one of the most trafficked stretches in the state.
But the job doesn’t stop there.
The project also includes the replacement of concrete slabs and bridge rails, worn down over the years by constant commuter use and large commercial vehicles going to and from L.A. Shoulders will be added, bridge rails upgraded and ramps realigned.
According to Harrington, the task is considerable, but far from daunting.
“Atkinson’s portfolio dates back to the 1920s – we’re a construction company that’s done billion-dollar projects internationally,” he says. “In more recent years, the [San Bernardino Freeway restoration] is probably one of our larger projects, but we’re specialized in the transportation market.”
While highway construction is inherently dangerous work, Harrington notes that Atkinson has learned a few things over the decades – the company just passed the two-year mark without a single accident resulting in lost time.
When completed, the restoration effort should provide drivers with a smoother, safer road, and – an incentive for putting up with months of delays – a faster commute.
“The project is going to reduce congestion and improve the drive for motorists on this very busy section of freeway,” says Caltrans spokesperson Judy Gish. “It will also preserve the freeway and require less maintenance in the future.”
Throughout Southern California, the hills ring with the sound of heavy equipment as Caltrans and other agencies work to keep the region’s traffic arteries flowing.
In L.A.’s west side, Caltrans has partnered with the L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority to add a 10-mi HOV lane on the northbound side of the San Diego (I-405) Freeway from the I-10 to the Ventura (U.S. 101) freeways. The $1.3-billion project includes the realigning of on- and off-ramps, removing and replacing a bridge and ramp structures, installing about 18 mi of retaining and sound walls and general road improvements on adjacent streets.
Caltrans, which owns the freeway and the property on which it sits, has handed the project to L.A. Metro to oversee construction. Kiewit Pacific Co. of Santa Fe Springs was awarded the design-build contract for the endeavor. Construction began in spring 2009 and is slated for completion in spring 2013.
In Orange County, Brutoco Engineering and Construction of Corona is busily adding a six-mile eastbound lane on the Riverside (State Route-91) Freeway between the Eastern Transportation Corridor (SR-241) and the Corona Expressway (SR-71) – part of a $1.4 billion series of improvements to the 91. Work on the $47.9 million lane addition began in November 2009.
“The timeframe for the project was set at 300 working days, so were looking a project completion around January of next year,” says Caltrans spokesperson Tracy Lovell. “That’s a pretty aggressive schedule.”
Caltrans also recently opened bidding for the first phase of the two-phase West County Connectors project, which it’s tackling in partnership with the Orange County Transportation Authority. The first phase of the $400 million project calls for connecting the westbound Garden Grove (SR-22) HOV lane at Valley View Street to the northbound I-405 HOV lane, and reconstructing the Valley View Street bridge over the SR-22.
According to Lovell, the apparent low-bidder for the contract was none other than Atkinson Contractors, though she stressed the bids were still being evaluated. Construction of the first phase is expected to begin this summer.