CAR-POOL LANE SET TO OPEN ON 405 STEP SHOULD EASE FREEWAY CONGESTION.
After more than a year of work, Caltrans officials said Friday that they plan to open the long-sought car-pool lane on the San Diego Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass next week to deal with heavy traffic.
A Caltrans spokeswoman said the actual opening day will be determined Monday, contingent on whether the department is able to complete the temporary striping on the freeway.
``The only holdup is putting the stripes in,'' said spokeswoman Ivy Estrada. ``We are going to put on temporary stripes if we have to, so we can get the lane opened.''
The project is the first part of a $34 million three-phase program developed by Caltrans to ease congestion at the 405-101 interchange and is expected to take seven years to complete.
Phase two involves widening the northbound San Diego Freeway connector to the eastbound Ventura Freeway. The final phase will redesign the connector from the northbound San Diego Freeway to the Ventura Freeway in both directions.
``This is great news,'' said Richard Katz, a former assemblyman and co- chairman of the Valley Transit Strike Force. ``This is an important first element to ease congestion.
``Not only will it help encourage car pooling, but it provides access all the way into Westwood and increases efficiency of the freeway.''
State Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, was pleased the work was being completed on schedule, an aide said.
``This is terrific news for Valley commuters,'' Hertzberg spokesman Luke Breit said. ``It should be able to provide some immediate relief and, hopefully, encourage people to car pool.''
The project is one of many prompted by a Daily News series of stories on the congestion problems at the interchange and along the Ventura Freeway, winning support from local officials and funding from Caltrans.
The car-pool lane involved adding a lane to the northbound side of the freeway to comply with state standards that a car-pool lane could not take away existing lanes.
With the new lane added, Caltrans was able to build in the car-pool lane.
The opening of the lane comes as the agency announced this week that it was moving ahead with a $4.5 million, three-year study to examine how to make improvements along the 40-mile freeway corridor from the Route 23 interchange in Thousand Oaks to downtown Los Angeles.
Caltrans has planned a series of public hearings on some of the possible solutions that could raise a great deal of controversy.