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Commentary: OCTA's 405 plan is 'highway robbery'

June 23, 2012|By Eric Bever
  • This is a rendering of Alternative 3, which adds an express lane with the existing carpool lane to the San Diego (405) Freeway. The Springdale Street overpass in Westminster is pictured.
This is a rendering of Alternative 3, which adds an express… (Courtesy OCTA )

Orange County taxpayers are about to be conned out of about $1.3 billion.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has devised an audacious scheme that would use Measure M2 tax dollars to construct toll lanes on the San Diego (405) Freeway between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa. These lanes will do little to improve congestion, and will primarily benefit only those who are willing and able to pay tolls on top of their share of $600 million in Measure M2 taxes allocated to 405 Freeway improvements. That's not what we all voted for, is it?

That's one of three options OCTA is considering to supposedly improve traffic on the 405, and it's the one its staff is pushing for the hardest. OCTA officials tried to run their shell game in Costa Mesa, but thankfully a skeptical City Council and residents didn't fall for it.

Here was their pitch: OCTA's Alternative 3 would provide an additional general purpose lane and two express lanes in each direction through the city, requiring the demolition and rebuilding of the 3-year-old, $7-million bridge over the 405 at Fairview Road.

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Three additional lanes in each direction sounds great, right? It conjures up images of sailing down the 405 at 65 mph during rush hour, the top down, the wind in our hair and the radio blasting a No Doubt tune.

Unfortunately, that's not the truth.

The freeway through Costa Mesa now has seven and sometimes eight lanes (including one for carpooling) in each direction. Thanks to Costa Mesa's proactive approach to improving traffic through town, our section of the 405 has already been built out to full width. Option 3 would hijack the carpool lane and turn it into a toll lane, add another toll lane, and leave commuters with the exact same amount of free (general purpose) lanes through Costa Mesa (seven and sometimes eight).

Up north in Fountain Valley, it's the same ploy. OCTA touts adding two toll lanes and a general purpose lane on both the northbound and southbound lanes of the 405, but in fact, they are adding two toll lanes and re-designating the carpool lane as a general purpose lane. The result is that the 405 northbound Euclid Street bottleneck is not addressed, and the taxpayers get no additional lanes unless they agree to pay, yet again, to use the toll lanes.

Where we now have five lanes (four general and one carpool) we will still have only five lanes after Option 3's $1.7 billion has been spent.

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