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County Sets Aside $61 Million to Add 405 Freeway Lane

Times Staff Writer

The good news for commuters stuck on the South Bay segment of the San Diego Freeway is that construction of an additional lane for buses and car pools moved a step closer to reality this week as the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission announced it had earmarked $61 million for the project.

The bad news is that the project still has bureaucratic hurdles to overcome and the lane will not be built for several years.

And even then, Caltrans, which supports the project, predicts that the main effect the lane will have is to increase the number of cars, trucks and buses using the road, rather than causing any long-lasting rise in freeway speeds. Cars on the congested freeway now travel below 30 m.p.h. several hours a day.

“Initially, it is going to certainly help. It is going to go into free flow,” said Dave Roper, Caltrans deputy district director of traffic operations for Los Angeles and Ventura County.

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“But that is going to last a very short time--I estimate a few weeks. People are going to flood into it and it is going to break down again. There will be more ‘throughput,’ but I would not expect over a long period of time that it will significantly reduce congestion. That is not the nature of traffic.”

The project, which has been planned for years, would add a freeway lane in each direction from the Marina Freeway in the north to the Orange County line in the south. The new lane will be reserved for buses and car pools.

Gas Tax Money

In Orange County, a $56-million project is under way to add a bus and car-pool lane on the San Diego Freeway from the Orange-Los Angeles county line to the junction of the San Diego and Santa Ana freeways near El Toro.

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The $61 million, which comes from state gas tax revenues, amounts to more than half of the project’s cost, estimated at $108 million. About a year ago, the transportation commission decided that the bus and car-pool lane was the most effective way to aid traffic along the San Diego Freeway, and it set aside $12 million for the project. The remaining funds will probably be raised from gas taxes.

The project will add some lane segments by restriping the freeway, and in other areas, a new lane will be constructed in the freeway median.

The first part of the project to be completed is expected to be the South Bay segment--from the Marina Freeway to the Harbor Freeway, a stretch that includes the South Bay curve, where congestion frequently occurs.

Despite Caltrans’ prediction that the San Diego Freeway would remain heavily congested after the additional lane opens, transportation commission spokeswoman Diane Perrine said that the county transportation agency expects the lane to allow people to get home and to work faster, “especially if they ride in the car-pool lane. It should also help people going to the airport.”

The decision to back the car-pool and bus lane was supported by the El Segundo Employers Assn., which includes aerospace companies who are trying to comply with regional air quality regulations that require them to provide incentives for car pools.

Construction on the segment between the Harbor and Marina freeways is expected to begin by 1991.

During construction, the commission hopes a computerized traffic light system will be working so that traffic may be diverted to surface streets where timed lights will permit faster flow.

The car-pool funds are included in the Regional Transportation Improvement Plan, which sets priorities for construction projects intended to reduce congestion or to widen freeways.

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After approval by the commission, the regional plan will go to the Southern California Association of Governments on April 6. The California Transportation Commission is to consider final approval of the regional plan on June 29.


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