Updated 4:07 p.m. Sunday.
A slight bit of confusion clouded the re-opening of the San Diego (405) Freeway Sunday, but the largest scheduled freeway closure in Orange County history ended early.
Orange County Transportation Authority officials had happily pronounced the southbound 405 lanes open at 1:50 p.m., three hours before the 5 p.m. deadline for removal of a demolished overpass. But motorists complained that barricades were still up one hour after that, as CHP officers positioned themselves as pace cars to prevent over-exuberant driving.
By 3 p.m,, the southbound 405 and eastbound 22 were flowing, although heavy traffic was reported. Northbound lanes were being readied for an early reopening as well.
The 405 had been cleared of demolished overpass debris, steel protective plates and dirt three hours before the deadline.
"They're doing remarkably well, way ahead of schedule, and we're thrilled about that," Orange County Transportation Authority spokesman Ted Lynn told City News Service.
Traffic on surface streets between Westminster and Long Beach had been heavy, but manageable, he said. "In many ways, it looks just like a typical Southern California weekend out there," he said.
Freeway scanners showed green lights and normal speeds on almost every freeway in Orange County and southern Los Angeles County on Sunday. The exceptions were gummy traffic for about one mile before the closure on the southbound 405 in Long Beach, and the near-permanent congestion on the Santa Ana (5) Freeway at the construction bottleneck near Carmenita Road in La Habra.
By sunrise Sunday, the 50-year-old obsolete overpass that had carried the eastbound Garden Grove (22) Freeway off of the 405 was a pile of rebar and chunky rubble off to the side of the interchange. Most of it will be recycled.
Caltrans engineers said they do not believe a 20-hour shutdown has ever been scheduled since the 405 opened across Orange County in about 1962.
The closure is part of a plan to widen the 405 and 22 freeways and build direct carpool connector bridges. The new bridge, already in service, is wide enough to span new carpool lanes on the 405, and a connector flyover for carpool traffic to transition to and from the 22.
The same project is also adding carpool connectors and widening the other 22/405 interchange, three miles to the west in Long Beach. Carpool connectors will also be built from the 405 to the San Gabriel (605) Freeway there.
-City News Service