The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has approved the largest design-build contract in its history, awarding $1.2 billion for lane expansions on Interstate 405.

Set to begin construction next year, the I-405 Improvement Project is a major step in the agency’s effort to speed up travel times for roughly 370,000 daily commuters. The project, awarded to OC 405 Partners, will focus on a 16-mile stretch of I-405 between Costa Mesa and the L.A. County line and will relieve gridlock by adding one regular lane in each direction and constructing the 405 Express Lanes toll facility.

With completion of the project, it’s expected to take 29 minutes to travel during rush hour from SR-73 to I-605 in the regular lanes. That commute can be cut down to 13 minutes if a driver chooses to take the express lanes. Without the project, it would take 2 hours and 13 minutes to travel that stretch of freeway in the regular lanes or 2 hours in the carpool lanes.

This is the first project in the state to be built using the design-build authority provided under Assembly Bill 401, passed in 2013. AB 401 allows regional transportation agencies and Caltrans to use a design-build method to deliver highway projects in a way that reduces time and cost. In addition, the 405 Express Lanes will be the first project in California to use the tolling authority provided under AB 194 that ensures that any excess toll revenue will be used to fund improvements on local streets and public transportation.

“The I-405 Improvement Project has been an unprecedented joint effort between OCTA, the California State Transportation Agency, Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration, state legislators and local cities,” said OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson.

In addition to constructing the new lanes, the project will rebuild 18 bridges and improve freeway access and traffic on local streets. This work is critical to accommodate expected employment, population and housing growth not only in Orange County, but also throughout the Southern California region.

The project’s total cost of $1.9 billion will be funded with a combination of federal, state and local funds — including funds from Orange County’s Measure M half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. Orange County voters first approved Measure M in 1990 and, after 20 years of progress with more than $4 billion in transportation improvements, voters renewed the measure in 2006 for an additional 30 years.

Source: OCTA Press Release