The Interstate 405 Improvement Project has reached its biggest financing milestone, one that gives the contractor the green light to move ahead fully with design and construction.
Orange County Transportation Authority officials on Wednesday afternoon, July 26, signed final documents with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a $629 million loan that will cover about one-third of the $1.9 billion freeway project. The project, expected to be completed by 2023, aims to reduce travel times through widening 16 miles of I-405 between State Route 73 in Costa Mesa and Interstate 605 near the Los Angeles County line.
OCTA had been anticipating the closing of the loan, through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, since board members OK’d general terms a month ago and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao approved it last week.
“This really allows us to begin the process of bringing congestion relief to our traveling public, our residents that use and live along the 405,” said OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson, adding that the last major improvement was in 1989. “This has been a key part of our focus for the last decade — to make significant improvements to the 405 — and this really is the final piece to pull all that together.”
The design-build project is the largest capital endeavor OCTA has ever undertaken. It entails adding one general-purpose lane in each direction of the I-405 between I-605 and Euclid Street, and a second lane in each direction to be combined with an existing carpool lane to create the 405 Express Lanes, dual tolled lanes between I-605 and State Route 73.
With a low interest rate of 2.91 percent, the TIFIA loan over its 35-year life is projected to save Orange County taxpayers about $300 million compared to toll revenue bonds OCTA otherwise would have had to issue.
The savings will allow the 405 Express Lanes to stay free to two-person carpools during non-peak hours for the first 3 1/2 years. The express lanes…