One lane recommended for 405 project

An Orange County Transportation Authority committee this week recommended adding at least one lane to both sides of a portion of the 405 Freeway.

The Regional Planning and Highways Committee voted 6 to 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 slightly alters what is known as Alternative 1 by calling for the single lane to be constructed in such a way as to allow an additional lane to be built in the future, said OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.

Should the board agree with the committee and staff's recommendation, Alternative 1 would act as a "placeholder," allowing for the first free lane to be built while postponing talks on whether the second one would also be free or pay-as-you-go, Harper said.

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 added.

The cost, estimated at $1.25 billion, would increase should the second lane in each direction be constructed later.

The committee's decision comes a few weeks after six nearby cities reiterated their opposition to any toll lanes on the 405 Freeway.

Mayors from Westminster, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa collectively stated in a letter dated Nov. 20 that the only appropriate alternative is to construct 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.

The letter also stated that excess toll revenue should be discussed with all six municipalities at the same time. The group response is an answer to OCTA Chairman Gregory Winterbottom's letter sent a week earlier, individually asking the cities for an updated list of projects that could be funded with extra toll revenue.

Winterbottom provided each city with a list of unfunded projects that the OCTA had on file. About $98.8 million in various street improvements were identified and broken down by each city.

Huntington Beach last identified about $6.5 million in projects, such as the mitigation of storm water pollution and improvements to traffic signals.

Costa Mesa noted about $83.7 million in infrastructure projects, including about $21.4 million in intersection improvements and about $42.4 million in road maintenance.

Residents and politicians from the communities near the 405 Freeway have repeatedly stated their opposition to toll roads.

The cities' favored option, adding two general-purpose lanes in each direction, would cost around $1.4 billion. Adding one general lane and one toll lane would cost the OCTA an estimated $1.7 billion.

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