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Commentary: Stop the 'south county Lexus' lanes

August 28, 2012|By Eric Bever

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has devised an audacious scheme, and its spin-off, "alternatives 3 and 3-A," would use billions of Measure M2 freeway congestion-improvement tax dollars to construct toll lanes on the San Diego (405) Freeway between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa.

And, curiously, Alternative 3-A was rolled out after the public comment period was formally closed, eliminating the opportunity to officially analyze and comment on the new proposal. These taxpayer-funded toll lanes will primarily benefit only those who are willing and able to pay tolls, in addition to their share of billions in Measure M2 taxes allocated to 405 improvements.

Orange County taxpayers did not vote to build a 405 toll road when we supported Measure M2, did we? Tolls were never part of the Measure M2 discussion.

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Alternatives 3 and 3-A are toll road alternatives OCTA is considering to purportedly improve traffic on the 405, alternatives its staff is pushing for the hardest. OCTA officials tried to run their shell game, cajoling corridor cities to buy in, but thankfully several skeptical city councils along the 405 corridor, and hundreds of their residents, didn't fall for it.

Here is OCTA's pitch (which the media relentlessly repeats): Alternative 3 would provide an additional "general-purpose" lane and an "express" lane in each direction through the central O.C. 405 corridor.

Two additional lanes in each direction sound great, right?

Unfortunately, that's not the truth. In fact, OCTA is really planning on adding two limited-access (toll and HOV) lanes. These lanes will not be available to the general public, unless you can actually gain access to the toll lanes, (tough in central O.C.), and you are willing and able to pay tolls for using the lanes.

The result is that the 405 northbound bottlenecks are not addressed, and the taxpayers fronting the $1.3 billion in Measure M2 taxes receive zero additional freeway congestion-relieving lanes. Where we now have five free lanes (four general, one carpool) we will still have only five freely accessible lanes after the favored Alternative 3's $1.7 billion has been spent.

Simply put, OCTA's preferred Alternative 3 and Alternative 3-A — its attempt at mollifying the corridor cities — both leave the "free" in freeway and add two lanes only usable by those who have FasTrack toll transponders and who are willing and able to pay for every trip.

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