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Feds Blame Faulty Retaining Walls for 405 Widening Delays

In December 2011, several brand-new vertical retaining walls crumpled, creating a bizarre and not-very-reassuring sight to hundreds of thousands of persons driving between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley daily.

405 Freeway (Photo credit: Ned Racine)
405 Freeway (Photo credit: Ned Racine)

By City News Service

A federal investigation blames collapsed concrete retaining laws for the 15 month delay in the completion of the San Diego (405) Freeway widening project over the Sepulveda Pass, it was reported Sunday.

The Los Angeles Daily News obtained reports outlining why the project, budgeted at $1 billion and supposed to be finished now, has significantly overshot both goals.

The newspaper pointed to a vertical retaining wall technology devised by contractors and approved by Metro, the lead agency in charge of the project.

In December 2011, several brand-new vertical retaining walls crumpled, creating a bizarre and not-very-reassuring sight to hundreds of thousands of persons driving between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley daily. Fifteen walls that held back soil from landing on the freeway were ripped out and replaced.

The Daily News reported that the faulty wall designs have triggered a round of finger-pointing and lawsuits. The project is built under a "design- build" contract that supposedly saves money and time by allowing a contractor to literally draw up plans as construction moves along.

Kiewit, a large contracting firm based in Omaha, Neb., is responsible for the design and construction of the project, which received $189 million and federal money. The remainder came from L.A. County sales tax revenue raised under Measure R and administered by Metro, which is building the freeway for Caltrans.

The Daily News reported that Caltrans has concluded that the walls failed because metal straps that connected panels broke, and the various engineering firms and subcontractors who came up with the plan are all suing each other.

Although the contractor is supposedly responsible for cost overruns, Metro has been named in the lawsuits and it is not clear if taxpayers will be left holding the bag, the newspaper reported.

Other unexpected costs included relocating underground crude oil transmission lines and dealing with a huge, previously-unknown storm drain underneath Sepulveda Boulevard. Residents near the Mulholland Drive bridge -- replaced during the infamous Carmaggedon closure -- also insisted on changes that cost time and money, the Daily News reported.

Those have added about $100 million to the $1 billion project.

Eighty-five percent of the construction is done, Metro officials said, and all work is scheduled to be finished next fall, 15 months behind schedule. Although only one through carpool lane in one direction was added across the pass, the entire 10-mile freeway was reconstructed between the Ventura (101) and Santa Monica (10) freeways.

Obsolete and unsafe 60-year-old overpasses and interchanges are being replaced on the Westside, and exit lanes are also being added to the 405.

Tee October 21, 2013 at 04:55 PM
The entire Cal-Trans system including their contractors is rift with corruption. So are these fools the same ones who did the over passes? Nothing mentioned about that. I happen to have met someone who had just started working as a iron worker for the 23 overpass widening. He had just received his union card. He had just come home from work and said he was drunk off his ass. Apparently they party hardy all day long while setting steel for these freeways. Scary stuff. We'll see just how bad it is during the next Earthquake. Time to dissolve Cal Trans and use a open Bid system with both rewards and penalties along with performance incentives. Dissolve Public Sector Unions. Now!!!

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