By Paloma Esquivel
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.
11:18 AM PST, December 9, 2013
Orange County transportation officials were set to vote Monday on how to proceed with a project to widen a stretch of the 405 freeway.
The project has generated controversy because of a proposal to add toll lanes to the highway, but the pay-to-drive alternative is not on the agenda.City officials and some transportation leaders had criticized the toll lane plan — derisively referred to as "Lexus Lanes" by some — and predicted it could be a harbinger of more pay-to-drive lanes to come.
Before the Orange County Transportation Authority board meeting got underway Monday morning, Assemblyman Allan R. Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and representatives of cities along the improvement corridor gathered to denounce toll lanes. Mansoor said he expects to introduce legislation next year to block toll lanes by either barring them from the 405 or the county or requiring residents to vote to approve toll lanes.
The OCTA was originally give three options to expand the highway.
One alternative would expand the freeway with one free lane in each direction along a 11-mile stretch of the 405 from the 605 to Euclid Street. Another two would add one free lane in each direction along that same stretch and a second free lane along a shorter stretch of the highway.
The third alternative would add two high occupancy toll lanes in each direction along a 14-mile stretch of the freeway.
Earlier this month, an OCTA committee recommended that the board approve the alternative to add one free lane in each direction but leave open the possibility of adding more lanes in the future.
On Monday, OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson said the toll lane proposal had become so divisive that the agency was at risk of losing the confidence of voters who years ago approved a half-cent sales tax to widen the freeway.
The proposal before the board Monday asks it to continue working with federal, state and regional partners to explore the use of toll lanes in the county.
Mansoor and the city representatives said the committee’s recommendation to approve the first alternative is a delaying tactic that could eventually lead to toll lanes.
“We want a definitive answer that the toll lanes are not going to be put on the 405,” Mansoor said.
[For the Record, 12:25 p.m. PST, Dec. 9: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Orange County transportation officials were set to vote on whether to move forward with a plan to add toll lanes to the 405 Freeway. The toll-lane proposal was not on the agenda and board members instead were asked to vote on adding free lanes in either direction of the highway.]
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times