Despite a $1 billion widening project to improve traffic along a 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway that connects the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles, traffic is worse now in the Sepulveda Pass than it was when construction was completed several years ago.
That’s according to a new study published last Thursday by the University of Southern California-affiliated Crosstown project, a nonprofit organization that focuses on data journalism.
The study took a look at Caltrans’ effort in the early part of this decade to reduce traffic congestion on a stretch of the 405 that is part of the busiest highway in the country, and the impact on traffic it has had in the last four years.
The $1.1 billion project created numerous traffic disruptions along the corridor, the most extensive being both episodes of “Carmageddon,” when a 10-mile stretch of the 405 was shut down completely for one weekend each in 2011 and 2012 so crews could demolish the Mulholland Drive bridge.
And despite the delays motorists encountered amid the construction, it appears adding lanes in the Sepulveda Pass has thus far had little effect in easing traffic.
In fact, the study found rush-hour speeds along the Sepulveda Pass decreased on the southbound side of the 405 since the project's completion.
In 2015, when construction on the project was nearly finished, traffic on the southbound 405 during the morning rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.) was 50.1 mph, according to the analysis. One year later, speeds plummeted to 39.9 mph.
And while it recovered this year – the average increased to 45.7 mph – that’s still nearly 5 mph less than it was four years ago.
The evening rush hour (from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) didn’t fare much better on the southbound 405. In 2015, the study found the average speed through the Sepulveda Pass was 51.7. One year later, it ticked up to 53.3 mph.
But again, by this year, it slowed to 48.1 mph, which represents a decrease of 7%, according to the study.
The data showed the northbound 405 experienced significant slowing during the evening rush hour, from 45.9 mph in 2015 to 27.5 mph this year.
The only sign of improvement was for the northbound side during morning rush hour. From 2015 to 2019, speeds improved slight from 55 to 57.3 mph.
It’s not just the 405 that is slowing down, however.
Crosstown also found that the average weekday rush-hour speeds on 31 of the 52 freeway segments in Los Angeles County have also dropped since 2015.
Of the 31, 11 segments have decreased by at least 5 mph.
And while it might not necessarily seem like a lot, those miles per hour matter.
Four years ago, for example, motorists taking the 5 Freeway from Santa Clarita to downtown L.A. could expect the 35-mile commute to take approximately 46 minutes.
In 2019, that same drive takes 14 minutes longer, adding up to 70 additional minutes a week for commuters, the analysis found.
When you factor in the evening commute – approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds longer this year– motorists traveling between Santa Clarita and downtown L.A. are spending about 7 hours and 20 minutes more than in 2015, according to the study.
The increase in drive times has left many motorists frustrated.
“There’s too many cars, Uber drivers, everything. Everyone wants to live in L.A. and it’s not making it so glamorous anymore,” said one commuter.