East Edition Herald American

Officials mark opening of Carmenita Road Bridge

NORWALK — With two congresswomen, a state senator, a state assemblyman and officials of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority present, local officials could not resist the chance to seek more funding for the widening of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway from La Mirada to Downey.

The occasion was the formal ribbon cutting July 18 for the completion of the widening of the Carmenita Road bridge over the freeway and opening of on- and off-ramps to and from the freeway, held in the parking lot of the Lowe’s home improvement store at the southwest corner of the intersection.

U.S. Reps. Linda Sanchez, D-Norwalk, and Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, said they would try to get more funding from the Federal Highway Administration after Norwalk Mayor Mike Mendez and Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe noted that the project has not been allocated any funds for the coming year.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia; and Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D- Industry, also were asked to seek state funding.

Mendez and Knabe noted that the MTA does not plan any funding of the freeway widening project for 15 to 20 years once the widening project reaches Downey later this year.

Local officials want the widening funded to the Long Beach (710) Freeway in Commerce as was originally planned.

All agreed that the completion of the Carmenita bridge widening, from two lanes to 10 lanes, was a milestone that will improve traffic flow.

The $417.12 million bridge project, which included demolishing the 50-year-old bridge and building a new one, began in 2011.

Freeway improvements included replacing and reconstructing the existing two-lane overcrossing with a 10-lane (five lanes in each direction) structure, and reconfiguring the Carmenita Road interchange at the freeway. The project reconfigured the on- and off-ramps, and realigned frontage roads, said Duarte Councilman John Fasana, chair of the MTA board.

He denied charges that the MTA is more interested in public transportation and said “freeways and highway systems will remain the backbone of transportation.”

The Carmenita Road Interchange Project is one of six segments in construction as part of the $1.8 billion freeway widening project, which extends seven miles from the Los Angeles and Orange County line to the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway in Downey.

The next step in the project is to remake the Valley View Street bridge and complete two miles of high occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes, Fasana said.

“This is a major milestone which will improve the flow of traffic, save time and wear and tear on vehicles,” Rep. Linda Sanchez said.

“We are excited about this in Orange County and look forward to completion of this project,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Linda’s sister and a candidate for U.S. Senate. “It’s the gateway to Los Angeles County.”

She noted that Orange County several years ago widened its freeway to five lanes each way, creating a bottleneck upon entering Los Angeles County’s three-lane stretch.

“This bottleneck needs more fixing and there is no reliable financing to do that,” state Sen. Mendoza said, bemoaning the lack of county funds planned for the freeway.

“This has always been a bottleneck,” said Calderon, referring to the former Carmenita bridge. “This new bridge will change transportation dynamics,” he added.

“This is a great day for all of us and we are happy to cut the ribbon for the Carmenita Bridge, but there is more work to do,” said Knabe,  a member of the MTA board who voted against delaying freeway funds for 15 to 20 years.

He noted that planning for the project started in 1988.

“The federal government has been good to us and we need their future support,” Norwalk Mayor Mendez said. “I am blessed to see how much has been accomplished.”