Express lanes poised to open on 405 in Orange County, testing begins this week

Looking north, the new 405 Express Lanes stretch through Fountain Valley as part of the 405 Improvement Project.
Looking north, the new 405 Express Lanes stretch through Fountain Valley as part of the 405 Improvement Project from OCTA on Thursday. The lanes open Dec. 1.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Nov. 1. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at the latest local news and events.

Orange County commuters have been eyewitnesses for the past several years as the $2.1-billion I-405 Improvement Project, which got underway in early 2018, has sometimes made driving from Point A to Point B within a reasonable amount of time a challenging prospect. But it looks like the end could be near.

My Daily Pilot colleague Matt Szabo attended a media tour/update of the work hosted by the Orange County Transportation Authority last Thursday and reported the new 405 Express Lanes — for which we’ve seen signage spring up as we’ve driven the freeway — are scheduled to open for use Dec. 1.

The 16-mile stretch of express lanes are in place from the 605 interchange to the north and State Route 73 to the south. The new express lane will combine with the existing high occupancy vehicle lane to create two express lanes in each direction.


It’s hoped that enough motorists will opt to pay for access to the Express Lanes so as to help alleviate traffic in the rest of the lanes where the masses travel, according to Szabo’s story on the work.

As OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson noted and Szabo reported, the stretch where the 405, 605 and 22 come together at the northern edge of Orange County is the busiest section of freeway in America, carrying nearly 400,000 vehicles per day.

“Doing a project like this under that extreme amount of volume, we think obviously it’s hard, but there’s also a lot of benefit to have those 400,000 people a day have a different option to go through there,” Johnson is quoted as saying.

The express lanes, which will require vehicles using them to have a FasTrak transponder so they can travel without having to stop to pay the toll, will be monitored around the clock from an OCTA traffic operations center in Santa Ana.

According to the “How it Works” page on the 405 Express Lanes site, the tolls that will be charged have not yet been determined but “can vary by hour, day of the week and direction of travel. Traffic volumes are continuously monitored and, if warranted, tolls are adjusted quarterly up or down based on demand.”

Szabo reports that three-plus person carpools and drivers with veteran or disabled person license plates will always ride free. “Two-person carpools are charged during peak hours and free during non-peak hours, and solo drivers will always pay a toll. Clean air vehicles with the transponder receive a 15% discount.”

Funds collected will go toward paying off the $629-million federal loan that OCTA received for construction of the express lanes, with Measure M also funding the freeway improvements.

“Tolls are set and they vary by hour, day of the week and direction of traffic,” OCTA communications manager Joel Zlotnik said on the day of the media tour. “We monitor them constantly. Over the initial period of opening, we can adjust them, sort of on the fly. Then moving forward, they’ll get adjusted quarterly.”

Take note, if you’re planning travel on the freeway this week: Before it opens, the express lanes system needs to undergo testing, according to Szabo’s reporting. So, beginning tonight (Nov. 1), the carpool lanes along the 405 in both directions will close at night, including the connector lanes between the 22 and the 405 and the 605 and 405.


Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem, Gracey Van Der Mark and Mayor Tony Strickland listen to public comment during a meeting.
Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem, Gracey Van Der Mark and Mayor Tony Strickland listen to public comment during a recent meeting. A grassroots group calling itself ProtectHB is fighting several charter amendments Strickland, Van Der Mark and two other members of the City Council have voted to place on the March ballot.
(James Carbone)

Some Huntington Beach residents alarmed by actions of the current City Council majority have formed ProtectHB and are scheduled to hold a press conference this at 2 p.m. today, when they are expected to voice their concerns over several charter amendments the council’s conservative members recently voted to place on the March ballot. Opponents to the measures, according to ProtectHB’s website, believe they would “compromise residents’ voting rights,” make elections in Surf City “less secure,” and “significantly alter the balance of power” in City Hall.

Over the weekend Anaheim police shot and killed a 20-year-old woman carrying a BB or pellet gun that apparently looked like a short-barrel assault weapon, CNS reported. At about 9 a.m. Sunday officers responded to a report of someone armed with a rifle on South Anaheim Boulevard, according to an Anaheim Police Department statement. They confronted the woman, later identified as Abigail Lopez, and then fired at her, police said, striking her at least once. She was treated at the scene, then taken to a hospital where she died. An investigation is underway.

A Costa Mesa man pleaded guilty Monday to participating in what investigators describe as a fraudulent investment scheme that raised $13.8 million by promising investors returns of up to 10% through real estate. City News Service reported that Brett Barber, 44, who was a co-owner of Newport Beach-based BNZ Capital One, entered his plea to two counts of wire fraud and one count of criminal contempt, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count, and up to life imprisonment for the criminal contempt count.

The owner of an O.C. mortgage firm was sentenced Monday to more than five years in federal prison for scamming an investor of more than $5 million in a stock scheme, according to a CNS report. Jacques Poujade, 63, of Irvine, was sentenced to 63 months behind bars by U.S. District Judge Mark C. Scarsi, who also ordered him to pay nearly $6.2 million in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


An undated photograph of the Hotel del Mar. The hotel was later demolished in 1991 and replaced with a condominium complex.
(Courtesy of the Newport Beach Historical Society)

Officials with the Corona del Mar Residents Assn. and the Newport Beach Historical Society held a special ceremony last week to commemorate the area’s first structure. A plaque was unveiled Friday at the former site of the Hotel del Mar, which opened for business on July 20, 1907, and was the only structure in sight for a few years. The hotel eventually changed hands and was remade into the Balboa Palisades Club, then a hotel again before it became the Palisades Apartments in the 1960s, which stopped operating in 1987. The building was razed in the early 1990s. Today a condominium complex occupies the land along Seaview Avenue.

Two of Orange County’s Asian American concept eateries are teaming up for a special collaboration dish for a good cause. Chef Winnie Yee-Lakhani of the Garden Grove-based SmokeQueen and Le Shrimp Noodle Bar at South Coast Plaza will be serving a smoked char siu prawn noodle soup with a portion of the proceeds benefiting World Central Kitchen.


Anaheim Ducks' Mason McTavish (23) celebrates after scoring during the third period.
Anaheim Ducks’ Mason McTavish (23) celebrates after scoring during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Monday.The Ducks won 4-3.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

The Ducks’ Mason McTavish scored in final seconds of thrilling Anaheim win over Pittsburgh Monday. Just 11.0 seconds remained in the game when McTavish scored a short-handed goal, giving the Ducks a 4-3 victory over the Penguins.

Mater Dei-Mira Costa girls’ volleyball rematch is set for Division 1 finals Saturday. The game is set for 7 p.m. when No. 1 Mater Dei meets No. 2 Mira Costa for the championship at Cerritos College. Mira Costa advanced Saturday night with a 25-22, 25-18, 25-22 victory over No. 3 Huntington Beach, overcoming early deficits in each set to reach the finals for the second year in a row, according to this L.A. Times article.

Freshman Emily Song led Santa Margarita to the Division 1 girls' golf title.
(Greg Townsend)

Freshman Emily Song shot 68 to help Santa Margarita cruise to the Southern Section Division 1 team championship in girls’ golf on Monday, the L.A. Times reports. The Eagles finished at 359. The top eight finishers in Division 1 advance to the CIF SCGA qualifying tournament tomorrow at Morongo Golf Course.

Los Amigos football earned its share of Garden Grove League title for second straight year with a 24-8 win over Santiago last Thursday night. Los Amigos (6-4, 4-1) forced turnovers on the first three possessions for Santiago (4-6, 1-4). Rancho Alamitos (7-3, 4-1), which beat Loara (0-10, 0-5) on Thursday, joined Los Amigos atop the Garden Grove League standings, according to the Daily Pilot’s coverage of the Lobos’ gridiron action.


Steve McCurry's iconic "The Afghan Girl" is viewed by two guests at the Power of Photography exhibit at Bowers.
Steve McCurry’s iconic “The Afghan Girl” is viewed by two guests at the Power of Photography exhibit, courtesy of curator Peter Fetterman Gallery, at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Check out the Bowers Museum’s exhibits “The Power of Photography” and “Beyond the Great Wave: Works by Hokusai from the British Museum.” The former will be open until Jan. 14, while the latter closes a week earlier, on Jan. 7. Before you go, I recommend you read my colleague Sarah Mosqueda’s article on the two shows, which can be found here. The museum is located at 20th and Main streets in Santa Ana. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors (62-plus) and students (12-plus).

Dancers with Mark Morris Dance Group in brightly colored clothing.
Mark Morris Dance Group in “The Look of Love: An Evening of Dance to the Music of Burt Bacharach” to be performed at Musco Center this Saturday night.
(Christopher Duggan)

One night only performance: On Saturday Morris Dance Group’s “The Look of Love” comes to the Musco Center for the Arts in Orange. This is first presentation in the Maybelle Musco Contemporary Dance Series at the Musco, ”The Look of Love” features the musical legacy of the late Burt Bacharach. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $48 and can be purchased here.


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