A critical vote on a proposal to add toll lanes to a 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway in Orange County -- a $1.47-billion project that would involve reconstructing overpasses and other improvements -- has been pushed back until December.
The plan to add toll routes to the freeway — dubbed “Lexus lanes” by the mayor of one city along the route — is one of three proposed alternatives for helping untangle the highway congestion from Costa Mesa to the county line in Seal Beach.
The most controversial of the alternatives would add a single general-purpose lane and a toll lane in each direction. The existing carpool lanes on each side of the highway would also be converted to toll lanes.
Meeting Friday, Orange County Transportation Authority board members voted to postpone a decision until Dec. 9, but not before residents and elected leaders expressed deep reservations about the project.
Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach said the pay-to-travel lanes represented double taxation, since residents already pay a half-cent sales taxes that is directed for transportation improvements.
Resident Steve Ray echoed the thought.
“Now you’re looking at taking citizens again,” Ray said.
Several elected leaders said they fear that toll money from the 405 might be snatched away by the state and directed toward transportation projects elsewhere in the state.
“We all want to know whether Caltrans is going to bill this out to support another project,” said Todd Spitzer, a county supervisor.
Orange County was an early pioneer in the toll lane experiment when carpools lanes along a 10-mile portion of the 91 Freeway were converted to pay-to-use lanes. Toll lanes were recently added to the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles, and Orange County has an extensive network of toll roads.
The proposed toll lanes along the 405 would extend from the 73 toll road to the 605.
[For the Record 4:05 p.m. PST Nov. 8: An earlier version of this post quoted Spitzer as saying bleed. He said bill.]