405 toll lane flap: O.C. officials support adding one free lane

Some of Orange County's toll roads have struggled to attract drivers, and each of the major corridors has been forced to refinance its debt to avoid possible default. Above, the Express Lanes on the westbound 91 Freeway.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County transportation officials are recommending the addition of at least one free lane to the 405 Freeway, but are leaving enough wiggle room for a possible second lane.

A committee for the Orange County Transportation Authority voted 6-2, with directors Gary Miller and Matthew Harper dissenting, to suggest adding one general-purpose lane in each direction of a 14-mile stretch between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa.

The recommendation for “Alternative 1" was slightly modified to suggest building the single lane in a way that would allow another lane to be built in the future, said agency spokesman Joel Zlotnik.

A $1.47-billion proposal to add toll lanes to a traffic-clogged 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway from Long Beach to Costa Mesa has met with wide opposition from officials and residents in the six cities along the route. Civic leaders said they fear the plan could be a harbinger of more toll roads to come.


Should Orange County Transportation Authority board members agree with the recommendation, Harper said Alternative 1 would act as a “placeholder” and allow for the first free lane to be built while postponing talks on the purpose of the second lane.

Harper, who is also the mayor of Huntington Beach, said he and his colleagues on the board agree that two lanes should be added to the 405.

“The question is just whether they’re toll lanes or freeway lanes,” he told the Daily Pilot.

The committee’s decision comes a few weeks after mayors from the cities of Westminster, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa collectively stated in a letter that the only appropriate alternative is to include two general-purpose lanes in each direction.

“Constructing toll lanes is a breach of trust with Orange County residents,” the letter stated, adding that residents agreed to a half-cent sales tax increase that would fund one additional general-purpose lane on the 405 Freeway.

At a public meeting last month, crowds packed an Orange County Transportation Authority board meeting to denounce possible toll lanes, which have been supported by Caltrans. City leaders expressed worry that the project would push traffic onto their streets, or that motorists traveling in the toll lanes would find it too difficult to pull off the highway and patronize local businesses.


Porsche in Paul Walker crash didn’t suffer massive fluid leak


Man gets prison for arson at Hollywood synagogue, other sites

Judge in Kelly Thomas trial orders media to remove their cameras

Twitter: @acocarpio