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State freeway upgrades bypass much of L.A.

Times Staff Writers

Relief is coming to drivers on some of Southern California’s busiest freeways, but not enough, according to local transportation planners who say the region is being shortchanged on its share of bond money voters authorized in November.

State officials on Friday announced the first projects likely to be bankrolled with the funds, part of a public works borrowing package championed by the governor. They include widening a portion of the 5 Freeway in the Los Angeles area, adding a carpool lane to a section of the 10 Freeway and installing a network of carpool lanes connecting the 22, 405 and 605 freeways in northern Orange County.

Left unfunded were several proposals that would have brought more relief to those major roads and to the heavily congested Riverside Freeway and other busy corridors.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who chairs the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, called the recommendations “an insult to the people of Los Angeles County” and “unacceptable.”

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Los Angeles County, where 28% of Californians live and which has the most congested highways in the state, has been recommended for less than 12% of the funds on the project list.

The list was released by staff members at the California Transportation Commission, a state panel that oversees funding for highways and mass transit. It shows their recommendations for allocating the first $2.8 billion of the $19.9 billion in borrowing that voters approved for transportation.

The commission staff chose the projects from 149 proposed by the state Department of Transportation and regional agencies. The agencies proposed to spend nearly three times the amount the commission had to disburse in this first round. The money is designated for congestion relief on busy highway corridors.

The bond money, which doesn’t cover all costs, will be supplemented with state, federal and local funds.

The full board, whose nine members are appointed by the governor, will vote on the recommendations at the end of the month. Construction could begin on some of the projects by fall.

The list of projects to be funded may still grow. The bond measure authorizes initial spending of $4.5 billion, or $1.7 billion more than the commission staff is proposing. The staff recommended that the board wait until next year to allocate the rest of the money, when planning for some of the projects that didn’t make the first cut will be more complete.

There is no precise timetable for allocating all of the bond money. But local transportation planners will be pushing hard for the board to release more of that money now. They will make their case at a hearing before the full commission in Sacramento on Tuesday. The commission staff assumes that some requests will be granted.

The first cut is “a floor, not a ceiling,” said John Barna, executive director of the commission. “I imagine as we discuss this over the next week or so the number will grow.”

He acknowledged that the southern part of the state received less funding than it is entitled to under state formulas. He said the commission would rectify that by the time all of the funds were doled out.

But Barna defended the initial list, saying the bond money should not be dispensed according to how many people live in an area but on the projects that will do the most to relieve congestion in an overall region. The staff, he said, chose projects based on “readiness for construction, demonstrable congestion relief and connectivity benefits” and “geographic balance.”

The bond money that remains after the $4.5 billion is disbursed will also be earmarked specific purposes, among them congestion relief on local roads; repairs on 400 miles of California 99 in the central part of the state; public transportation, including light rail and buses; goods movement; emissions reduction; and transportation safety.

The 43 projects recommended Friday could save motorists statewide 270,000 hours of sitting in traffic, according to commission documents.

One that did make the cut in Los Angeles -- at least partly -- is the widening of Interstate 5 from the 605 Freeway to the Orange County line.

The 6.7-mile stretch is one of the oldest and least improved sections of the interstate. The highway creates one of the worst bottlenecks in the state near the Orange County line, where it narrows from 10 lanes to six.

Planners estimate that it will cost $1.15 billion to widen that stretch of the 5 Freeway to 10 lanes, including carpool lanes in each direction. They were hoping to receive $387 million in bond money for the project, but the commission staff recommended less than half that amount.

The commission staff declined to fund a $950-million project to add more than 10 miles of carpool lanes to the northbound 405 Freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways. With more than 300,000 cars a day, it is one of the busiest stretches of the 405. The staff was concerned that the start date for construction in late 2011 was too far off and suggested the board reconsider the project next year.

The project list does include funding for carpool lanes along a 10-mile section of the 5 between the 134 and 170 freeways.

It also includes money for carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway from Puente Avenue in Baldwin Park to Citrus Street in West Covina.

In Orange County, projects that were recommended include a network of carpool lanes that would connect the Garden Grove Freeway to the 405 between Seal Beach Boulevard and Valley View Street and from the 405 to the 605 between Katella Avenue and Seal Beach Boulevard.

The Orange County Transportation Authority will receive money to widen the northbound side of the 57 Freeway from the Riverside Freeway to Lambert Road.

“It is kind of hard for us not to say, ‘Thank you,’ ” said Arthur Leahy, executive director of the Orange County Transportation Authority, who noted that his county would get more money than much larger Los Angeles County.

But the commission recommended funding for only one of four projects to relieve congestion on the busy Riverside Freeway through northeastern Orange County. Caltrans studies show that commuters using the highway experience some of the worst delays in the state.

In Riverside County, one of seven projects was given the nod: a $62.3-million proposal to add lanes in each direction to Interstate 215 from Interstate 15 to Scott Road.

The county did not get recommendations for $752 million more it had requested for widenings, carpool lanes, interchanges and connectors on interstates 15 and 215 and the Riverside Freeway.

“We are disappointed,” said John Standiford, a spokesman for the Riverside County Transportation Commission. “But they have yet to allocate the rest of the money, and there is still the State Transportation Improvement Program.”

Standiford said that funding the Interstate 215 project was a “big priority” for the county and would help eliminate congestion caused by merging traffic.

San Bernardino County also got much less than it had hoped: $153 million of $531 million requested.

The money will be used to widen and improve interchanges along Interstate 10 through Fontana, Rialto, Redlands and Yucaipa. New ramps are also planned for the 210 Freeway and Interstate 215.

The commission did not approve funding for widenings and interchange work for Interstate 15 through Victor Valley, one of the fastest growing areas in the Inland Empire and an emerging cargo hub for the region.

“The 15 is a major commuting route and a truck route. But none of the high desert projects received funding,” said Cheryl Donahue, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency. “We are concerned about that.”

evan.halper@latimes.com

dan.weikel@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Recommended road improvements

State officials have announced the first highway construction projects expected to be funded with the bond money that voters approved in November. Here is the list, with funding amounts in millions of dollars.

*--* County Route Description Funding Alameda 580 Eastbound HOV lane, Hacienda to Greenville $63.1 Alameda/ 80 Integrated fwy/local rd mgmt, Contra Costa Carquinez-Bay Bridge 55.3 Contra Costa 4 Widening, Somersville to Rt. 160 103.4 Contra Costa/ 24 Caldecott Tunnel - 4th Bore Alameda 203.2 El Dorado 50 HOV lanes, county line to Bass Lake interchange 23.5 Imperial 78 Brawley Bypass, Stage 3 29.3 Kern 46 Kecks Rd. 4-lane (Kecks Rd. to Rt. 33) 46.8 Kings/Tulare 198 4 lane expressway, Rt. 43 to Rt. 99 71.6 Los Angeles 5 HOV lanes, Rt. 134 to Rt. 170 73 Los Angeles 5 HOV lanes, O.C. line to Bloomfield (segs 1, 2, 3) 157.6 Los Angeles 10 HOV lanes, Puent Ave. to Citrus St. 97.3 Mendocino 101 Willits Bypass 177 Monterey 1 2-lane expressway, Salinas Rd. interchange 25.9 Napa/Solano 12 Jameson Canyon widening, Phase 1 74 Nevada 49 La Barr Meadows widening 18.6 Orange 22 HOV Connector, Rt. 22/405 and 405/605 200 Orange 57 Widen northbound, Rt. 91 to Lambert Rd. 70 Orange 57 Widen northbound, Katella Ave. to Lincoln Ave. 20.1 Orange 91 Eastbound auxiliary lane, Rt. 241 to Rt. 71 71.4 Placer 80 HOV & auxiliary lanes, Sac. Co to Eureka Rd. (Phase 2) 20.6 Placer 80 Westbound HOV & auxiliary lanes, Eureka to Rt. 65 (Phase 3A) 31.3 Placer 65 Lincoln Bypass 73.7 Riverside 215 Widen, I-15 to Scott Rd. 38.6 Sacramento 50 HOV lanes, Watt Ave. to Sunrise Blvd., Phase 1 88.3 San Bernardino 10 Bridge widenings (HOV Phase 1) 85.7 San Bernardino 10 Widen ramps, auxiliary lanes: Cherry, Citrus & Cedar 19.2 San Bernardino 10 Westbound mixed flow lane, Live Oak Cyn. to Ford St. 26.5 San Bernardino 215 Route 210/215 connectors 22 San Diego 15 Managed lanes, Mira Mesa access ramp 25 San Diego 15 Managed lanes, Rt. 163 to Rt. 56 175 San Diego 5 North Coast Corridor, Stage 1A, Unit 1 36.4 San Diego 805 North Coast Corridor, Stage 1A, Unit 2 56 San Diego 805 2 sobound aux lanes, E St. to SR-54 11.8 San Luis Obispo 46 4-lane expressway, Geneseo to Almond (Whitley 1) 67.7 San Luis Obispo 101 Santa Maria River Bridge widening 58 Santa Barbara/ 101 HOV lanes, Mussel Shoals to Ventura Casitas Pass Rd. 131.6 Santa Clara 101 Widen Yerba Buena to I-280/I-680 45.3 Santa Cruz 1 Auxiliary lanes, Morrissey to Soquel Ave. 12.7 Shasta 5 Cottonwood Hills truck climbing lanes 16 Sonoma 101 HOV lanes, Wilfred Ave.- Santa Rosa Ave. 48.4 Sonoma 101 HOV lanes, Railroad Ave.-Rohnert Park Expressway 34.9 Sonoma 101 HOV lanes, Steele-Windsor River (North Phase A) 57.9 Tuolumne 108 East Sonora bypass, Stage 2 17.2

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Source: California Transportation Commission


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