Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Southern California’s construction boom also has keep contractors busy and prompted fewer of them to bid competitively on major highway projects. Recently, on average, there have not even been two bids on every project over $5 million, officials said. The connector would make commutes easier for residents of the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys by easing congestion and providing continuity of the car-pool lanes on both freeways. “A car-pool interconnection system is paramount,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford. “This is going to do a lot to reward ride sharing from a north-county perspective.” After being considered by the MTA’s Planning and Programming Committee today, the plan will next go before the full MTA board for a vote Dec. 15 before being submitted to state transportation officials. The connector project is in the design stage. Transportation officials are trying to expedite it for a tentative completion date of mid-2009. LANCASTER – MTA officials want to keep pre-construction work on schedule despite a new estimated cost of $126.6 million, including a $45.6 million increase, for a car-pool lane connection between the Antelope Valley Freeway and Interstate 5. A plan to program $618 million in state and federal funds to keep the Highway 14-Interstate 5 connector and other highway projects moving ahead will be considered today during a committee meeting of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “That’s my main mission,” MTA board member Frank Roberts said of the connector project. “That’s critical for Santa Clarita.” The connector is among seven major highway projects planned for this decade on which MTA officials say costs have collectively increased by more than $1.15 billion from original estimates. They said rising costs of construction materials and real estate are among the reasons.