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Panel OKs Funds for Car-Pool Lanes : Transportation: A committee favors using state money and $26.8 million in county sales tax revenues to widen the Simi Valley Freeway.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles County transportation panel voted Monday to use local sales tax receipts to pay most of the $32.8-million cost of adding car-pool lanes to the Simi Valley Freeway in the San Fernando Valley.

The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission’s Finance Committee made the recommendation after being told that the commission staff had failed in efforts to persuade the state to bear the full cost of the project.

David Yale, a commission planner, said that without a local contribution of $26.8 million from the half-cent sales tax that county voters approved in November, “this much-needed freeway widening might not be completed for quite a few years.”

The committee expects that the state will contribute the other $6 million based on the commission’s interpretation of state guidelines for sharing project costs.

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The expansion is needed to keep up with rising traffic volume from new housing developments in the north Valley and nearby Ventura County communities, state Department of Transportation officials say. The freeway carries 174,000 vehicles daily and is congested about 30 hours per week, according to a Caltrans report.

The 11-member commission meets Jan. 23 to consider the recommendation.

If the commission and the state ultimately approve the project, the freeway will be widened to 10 lanes from the Golden State Freeway to the Ventura County line. Work should begin in 1994 and be completed in about two years, transportation officials said.

The inside lanes will be restricted for the entire 11.4 miles to vehicles with more than one occupant, officials said.

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County officials were dismayed in September when the California Transportation Commission failed to set aside funds for the lanes.

Local transportation planners said the Simi Valley Freeway project failed to win approval because the state commission unexpectedly changed its method of allocating money to reward counties that have increased local sales taxes to help pay road-building expenses.

In November, Los Angeles County voters approved an extra half-cent sales tax, with 25%--or about $100 million a year--allocated to highway projects, giving the county money to put toward the newly created category of shared-cost projects.

The Finance Committee voted Monday to recommend that the sales tax fund be tapped for the Simi Valley Freeway.

Still to be determined is how Ventura County will finance its plans to expand the freeway, which is six lanes wide much of the way in that county.

Ventura County voters in November soundly rejected an extra half-cent sales tax that would have financed the project.


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