O.C. officials want Caltrans to guarantee the county will control toll policy, keep excess revenue from the $1.47-billion project.
By Adolfo Flores, November 8, 2013
Orange County transportation officials are considering a plan to
eliminate carpool lanes and add toll lanes on a 14-mile stretch of the
405 Freeway between Costa Mesa and the 605 Freeway.
A critical vote on a proposal to add toll lanes to a 14-mile stretch
of the 405 Freeway in Orange County — a $1.47-billion project that would
involve reconstructing overpasses and eliminating carpool lanes — has
been pushed back until December.
The plan to add toll
routes to the freeway — dubbed "Lexus lanes" by the mayor of one city
along the route — is one of three proposed options for helping untangle
the highway congestion from Costa Mesa to the county line in Seal Beach.
The most controversial of the options would add a single
general-purpose lane and a toll lane in each direction. The existing
carpool lanes on each side of the highway would also be converted to
The Orange County
Transportation Authority voted unanimously Friday to delay the decision
to Dec. 9, in front of a packed room of residents and elected officials,
most critical of the toll lane proposal.
Before they meet again, board members said they wanted assurances from Caltrans,
which oversees the state's freeways, that the OCTA would control local
toll policy, such as costs and hours of operation, and get to keep
excess toll revenues for local improvements.
The transit agency estimates the toll lanes would generate about $1.5 billion in revenue during the next 30 years.
"We all want to know whether Caltrans is going to bill this out to
support another project," Todd Spitzer, O.C. supervisor and OCTA board
Orange County was an early pioneer in the toll lane experiment when
carpool lanes along a 10-mile portion of the 91 Freeway were converted
to pay-to-use lanes. Toll lanes were recently added to the 110 Freeway
in Los Angeles, and Orange County has an extensive network of toll
The proposed toll lanes along the 405 would extend from the 73 toll
road to the 605 Freeway. The endeavor is being funded by voter-approved
Measure M, a countywide half-cent sales tax for transportation projects.
OCTA staff is recommending that officials adopt the controversial toll option.
Ellery Deaton, mayor pro tem of Seal Beach, said the toll lanes will
shift traffic onto city streets. "We will have nothing but chaos," she
Steve Ray, an Orange County resident, said he was among those who
voted for the transportation tax in order to improve streets and
"This is double taxation," Ray said of the proposed toll lanes. "This is not what the voters voted for."
If the lanes arrive, a rush-hour driver heading north would pay $9.91
to travel the full length of the toll lanes. Southbound drivers would
pay $6.11 in tolls at rush hour, according to OCTA estimates.
Caltrans, which must approve the plan, has an interest in installing
toll lanes on the 405 because of a federal mandate requiring that it
speed up congested carpool lanes, said John Moorlach, a county
supervisor and OCTA board member.
In September the state agency told OCTA that if it didn't choose an
option that would unclog carpool lanes, it would consider installing the