Since we’re not the ones actually doing the work on the 405 project, one of the best things we can do is work to activate the power of the forth estate to try to hold those accountable who do have control over the project. (No press covered the significant news out of the February Metro Construction Committee until our press release & press conference.) In that spirt, we are pleased to share that our press outreach has resulted in the ultimate embodiment of that fourth estate in Southern California, the Los Angeles Times, doing a lengthy article, the result of months of months of research and investigation by veteran reporter Martha Groves.
Elon Musk quips that it’s easier getting rockets into orbit than navigating his commute between home in Bel-Air and his Space Exploration Technologies factory in Hawthorne.
"The 405 … varies from bad to horrendous," said Musk, who also co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors. "It just seems people in Los Angeles are being tortured by this. … I don’t know why they aren’t marching in the streets." …
"This project has been horribly managed," said Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County supervisor and board member of Metro, which is running the project. "The performance of contractors has left a lot to be desired." …
In an interview, Musk said he’d be open to paying the costs of adding workers to the project “as a contribution to the city and my own happiness. If it can actually make a difference, I would gladly contribute funds and ideas. I’ve super had it.”
Some Reflections About the Pace of Progress
Are we satisfied with the pace of progress? No. That’s why we’ve reached out to get the attention of the media like the Los Angeles Times, tocontinue to ratchet up pressure to get things done. At the end of the day, we would put the onus back on Kiewit (and its subcontractors), and Metro for the pace of progress, and for the responsibility to find ways to adapt to unexpected third-party delays so that the traveling public’s needs are protected. We wish we ourselves here at Angelenos Against Gridlock could wave a magic wand and control the pace ourselves, but all that we can do is make the case for the needs of the frustrated masses — the approximately 300,000 daily drivers on America’s third most congested stretch of freeway — and for the importance of just getting the project done. Ultimately of course, we do all we can to fight for this, but it rests on Kiewit, its subcontractors, and on Metro to do what’s needed. We think articles such as this are important for raising the pressure on them.
The article quotes Supervisor & Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky understandably raising questions about costs of speeding up the pace. But let’s not forget that (with some exceptions, such as for changes out of their control), the contract requires the contractor to supply the "employees, material, facilities and equipment, and work such hours (including extra shifts, overtime operations, Sundays and holidays), as may be necessary.”
And when public costs are an issue, we should also not forget the enormous costs incurred by drivers due to lost productivity. County-wide, studies estimate that drivers waste around $10 billion a year due to congestion, and it’s reasonable to extrapolate that a fair portion of that is attributable to the 405, which the Texas Transportation Institute lists as the third most congested freeway in the entire USA.
On Broader Issues on the Need for Quicker Planning & Construction
The first scoping meetings for the 405 were in 2001. That speaks to the broader issues also at play about how extraordinarily slow California and the nation is at planning and building infrastructure — a fact that the added delays on the 405 project only serve to exacerbate. Governor Jerry Brown had this to say during his recent trip to China, where he saw firsthand their fast pace of progress: ”We sit around and mope. And process. And navel gaze,” said the governor about the political environment back home. ”And the rest of the world is moving at mach speed. So when we go back, we’ll emulate some of that.”
Let’s just get the 405 project done, and get on with our lives.