File photo
File photo

LOSANGELES — LosAngeles motorists are accustomed to waiting in traffic on Interstate 405. Now they’ll have an even longer wait for construction to be completed on the key north-south artery.

The ongoing project to widen one of the nation’s busiest freeways will take a year longer than initially planned, and the price tag will jump about $100 million beyond the initial $1 billion figure, the LosAngeles Times reported Wednesday.

Several factors have contributed to the cost overruns and delays, including the structural failure of miles of sound walls, a legal fight over the placement of ramps, and the logistics of relocating utility lines, the newspaper said.

“This project has been horribly managed,” said LosAngeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, pointing the finger at the main contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., and subcontractors. “They’ve shown a complete lack of sensitivity and empathy for the community in which they’re doing the work.”

Kiewit defended its work.

“The costs and schedule impacts are the result of the project’s overall complexity and the significant challenges associated with multiple unexpected utility and right of way issues,” the company said. “Kiewit and Metro are committed to working together to minimize future delays and resolve final costs.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials agreed that some of the problems, such as the utility lines and ramps, were out of the contractor’s control.

Transportation officials now say they hope to complete the bulk of the project by June 2014, with some of the work around traffic-clogged Sunset Boulevard lasting perhaps into the fall of that year.

The project was first forecast to be done this spring, and the date was later pushed back to December.

Preliminary work on the final 10-mile leg of a carpool lane through the Sepulveda Pass began four years ago. In addition to completing the northbound carpool link between Orange County and the San Fernando Valley, the project called for new ramps, rebuilding three bridges and adding miles of retaining and sound walls.

One frustrated commuter has even put $50,000 of his own money to get the project moving more quickly — but there’s little to show for it.

Elon Musk, who co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors Inc., says it’s easier getting rockets into orbit than driving between his Bel-Air home and his Space Exploration Technologies factory in Hawthorne.

“The 405 … varies from bad to horrendous,” Musk told the newspaper.

The ambitious project has required two temporary weekend closures of the busy freeway — one last year and another in 2011 — that became known as Carmageddon I and II.

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