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Costa Mesa residents protest freeway widening proposal

Transportation officials contend that such a project for the 405 is needed, given the projected increases in traffic by 2040.

June 05, 2012|By Joseph Serna

Costa Mesa residents jammed an Orange County Transportation Authority informational meeting this week, saying they had strong concerns about widening the San Diego (405) Freeway for the second time in a decade and the possibility of proposed toll lanes.

In turn, transportation officials argued that such improvements were necessary to keep from pushing future traffic congestion south to Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

Three years ago, Costa Mesa commuters drove around a $7-million project to rebuild the Fairview Road bridge, and years before that, acquiesced to a $50-million project on the freeway that took more than three years to complete.

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Standing before more than 120 community members at the meeting on the Orange Coast College campus, OCTA and engineering consultants asked how residents felt about another go.

The answer: a resounding no.

"How dare you just throw away $7 million," local resident Patrick Goeser said to Kevin Haboian, senior vice president of Parsons Corp. and project manager of the proposed widening project.

One of the residents' main criticisms of OCTA and the California Department of Transportation's pitch for widening the 405 south of the San Gabriel (605) Freeway to the Corona del Mar (73) Freeway has been the necessity to demolish and rebuild the Fairview overpass.

"To be so wasteful, it's sort of insulting to the Costa Mesa community to tear down a bridge we just put up," said City Councilwoman Wendy Leece. "It's stupid."

Mayor Eric Bever also wrote a letter that urged reconsideration.

The catch, at least for state officials, appears to be that the option most affecting Costa Mesa — dubbed Alternative 3 on OCTA's website — is also the one that would generate the most revenue to help cover the costs of improvements.

Coming in a $1.7 billion, it's the most expensive of OCTA's three proposed projects. The agency estimated that it could generate an estimated $400 million through tolls.

Alternative 3 would add one general-purpose lane, and one additional high-occupancy vehicle lane, from the 73 to the 605. However, the carpool lanes would be converted into express lanes similar to the Riverside (91) Freeway, and drivers would need a transponder for them.

Solo drivers and those with a single passenger would be charged a higher rate than a vehicle carrying three people.

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