Plans to add a toll road to the 405 aren’t very popular around these parts.
The community center wasn’t big enough to hold the crowd that showed up Tuesday night in Seal Beach to respond to the county’s proposal to expand the San Diego (405) Freeway.
About 200 residents and officials from Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Fountain Valley and Westminster met with Orange County Transportation Authority staffers to voice their concerns with the proposed 405 Freeway Improvement Project.
Every person to speak at the meeting voiced opposition to the proposal to build a toll road on the 405 Freeway between the San Gabriel (605) Freeway and the 73-toll road. A majority of the speakers were equally against any option that would expand the freeway further into the College Park East neighborhood. Other major concerns included the air quality impact of additional lanes and the traffic jam that could be created at the county line if Orange County’s portion of the freeway is more than two lanes wider than Los Angeles County segment of the 405.
“If they expand the freeway, what is going to happen when you get to L.A. County? Your going from seven lanes to four,” said one resident. “That is ludicrous.”
Several residents balked at the notion of putting up with the inconvenience of the expansion project only to end up having to pay a charge for the toll road.
“It’s against my dignity to go out there and pay on a road,” said Stephen Ostrich, earning a round of applause from the crowd. “I don’t live on the East Coast. I live on the West Coast.”
Caltrans will ultimately get final approval over the project, but it’s likely the state agency will defer to the will of OCTA, which is funding the project. The agencies are currently looking at four options for expanding the freeway, said Niall Barrett, OCTA’S project manager for the 405 Improvement Project.
- Alternative 1: Add one general-purpose lane
- Alternative 2: Add two general-purpose lanes (this would move the sound wall up to 10 feet into College Park East)
- Alternative 3: Add one general-purpose lane and one toll lane (this would move the sound wall up to 8 feet into College Park East)
- Alternative 4: Don’t expand the freeway at all
Adding just one lane in each direction would cost $1.3 billion because freeway overpasses would have to be torn down and widened to fit the expanded freeway underneath. The project is funded by Measure M money, but the proposed toll road would be funded by $400 million raised through bond sales, said Barrett.
Even if the freeway is expanded by two lanes, it will still be congested due to the sheer volume of traffic that passes over the 405 every day, he said.
“It’s one of the busiest stretched of freeway in the nation, said Barrett. “When you get on the freeway, no matter what direction, no matter the time of day, there is a lot of traffic.”
The OCTA Board of Directors will meet Aug. 13 to decide on which alternative to submit to Caltrans.
“From a transit perspective, we think we can move more people through the corridor with alternatives two or three,” said Will Kempton, OCTA’s chief executive officer.
The City of Seal Beach has hired two consultants to help the community oppose the encroachment of the freeway into College Park East as well as the toll road and to work with OCTA on alternatives.
“We understand from the last meeting that 100 percent of the people do not want the toll road,” said Seal Beach City Councilman Gary Miller.
Assistant City Manager Sean Crumby encouraged the crowd to offer public comment on the project before the comment period closes July 17. The OCTA Board will meet Aug. 13 to render its decision, and residents can also attend that meeting to voice their concerns.
The project’s Environmental Impact Report is available for review at Seal Beach City Hall, the Mary Wilson Library, the Los Alamitos/Rossmoor Library, or on the OCTA website at www.octa.net/405improvement. The presentation and comment forms are available on the city of Seal Beach website as well at www.sealbeachca.gov.
Members of the public can submit comments on the environmental report to Smita Deshpande, Caltrans District 12, at 2201 Dupont Drive, Suite 200, Irvine, 92612, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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