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OCTA board postpones 405 expansion decision

Monday's four-hour hearing at the agency's headquarters was heated and ended with a 12-4 vote to rehear the issue Oct. 22.

September 24, 2012|By Mike Reicher

ORANGE — Keeping alive the hopes of toll lane supporters, the Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors voted Monday to postpone its decision on how to expand the San Diego (405) Freeway between Costa Mesa and Seal Beach.

With a 12-4 vote, the board decided to rehear the issue at its Oct. 22 meeting.

At Monday's four-hour hearing at OCTA's headquarters on South Main Street, dozens of speakers argued over the competing visions for the chronically congested stretch of freeway.

"I think all the options need to be aired out a little bit better," board Chairman Paul Glaab said. "We only have one chance to get it right."

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Costa Mesa city leaders advocated for a nontoll option at the meeting. Its City Council has joined five other cities along the freeway stretch in opposition to so-called express lanes.

"I'm disappointed that they didn't knuckle down and make a decision today," said Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever.

"I guess it gives us another day to come back and fight again," he added.

Out of three main proposals, Bever and representatives from the corridor cities support Alternative 2. It would add two general-purpose lanes in each direction, but is expected to cost about $100 million more than the county has pegged for the project.

Costa Mesa recently hired a lobbyist for $25,000 to persuade the board members to support Alternative 2. At least two of the other cities have agreed to contribute to the cost.

City leaders faced some tough criticism. Some of the directors pushed back against their parochial concerns, saying that the region's transportation goals are their highest priorities.

"It is not just the six corridor cities that use the 405," OCTA Director and Lake Forest Mayor Peter Herzog said.

Others said that the $100 million needed for Alternative 2 would potentially disadvantage other county projects, like the San Diego (5) Freeway widening in South County.

Costa Mesa Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz tried to offer some funding solutions: efficient design and construction could save money, and state or federal funds could be used to free up other funds from Measure M, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax that funds county transportation projects.

Ultimately, the majority of directors said they had more questions that needed to be answered before making a decision. Herzog pointed to a map that showed areas that could benefit from excess toll revenue.

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