In a decision that prompted a threat of legal action from Southern California smog regulators, California highway officials said Friday that they have decided to forgo federal aid in the widening of the Ventura Freeway rather than add a "diamond lane."
The state Department of Transportation, in an apparent effort to remove the cloud hanging over the widening project, said in a letter to the Federal Highway Administration that it would pay the full $22-million cost of expanding the freeway through the San Fernando Valley.
To the dismay of Caltrans leaders, federal highway officials have been studying whether to require that the new eastbound lane be a diamond lane, restricted to car pools and buses, as a condition of paying 85% of the project cost.
Caltrans and federal highway officials said the state would lose no money overall if it does not seek federal aid for this project, but the decision drew an angry reaction from leaders of the Southern California Air Quaility Management District board, which has voted to sue the Highway Administration if it fails to force Caltrans to revive the diamond lane plan. The plan has drawn heated opposition from motorists.