Toll lanes ain’t so bad, according to the chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors.
In a Monday letter to the leaders of six Orange County cities -- including Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Fountain Valley -- Paul Glaab, OCTA chairman and mayor of Laguna Niguel, defended a construction proposal that would add toll lanes to the 405 Freeway from the 73 Freeway in Costa Mesa to the 605 Freeway at the county line.
Glaab said the proposal could help OCTA meet their goal of moving “as many vehicles through the lanes as possible during peak commute hours.”
“Express lanes are becoming more and more prevalent as a means to manage congestion in busy corridors,” Glaab said.
In May, Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority presented county residents with three construction alternatives for the 405 Improvement Project along with one “no build option” under which no construction would be done to expand the freeway.
Alternative One would add two lanes and cost about $1.3 billion. Alternative Two would add four lanes and cost about $1.4 billion, and Alternative Three would add four lanes -- two of them toll roads -- and cost about $1.7 billion, according to the OCTA.
According to an OCTA spokesman, the toll lane option would move the highest volume of traffic most efficiently.
Glaab wrote his letter in response to a letter from five OC mayors and one OC mayor pro tem, which supported Alternative Two and opposed Alternative Three.
The signers of the original letter were Fountain Valley Mayor John Collins, Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar, Seal Beach Mayor Michael Levitt, Westminster Mayor Margie Rice, Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever and Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Dwyer.
According to Glaab, though the six officials said that the Measure 2 program approved by the voters did not include plans or funds for toll lanes, "under all alternatives, the promise to voters will be delivered.”
While the city officials wrote that the requirement for a toll road transponder would “burden a large segment of the population,” Glaab said “this is a common practice in Orange County where more than 950,000 units have already been issued by the 91 express lane and the transportation corridor agencies."
“Please rest assured that your comments related to tolling will be properly captured and acknowledged when the staff presents the final recommendation to the board,” Glaab said.
The OCTA board is scheduled to select a preferred alternative for the project Sept. 24.
To read Glaab's full letter, click on the report just below the photograph at the top of this story.
UPDATE: OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik said that the board has not yet chosen one of the alternatives and that Glaab was responding to statements in the letter from the six officials.
All of the options "are still being considered," Zlotnik said. "This was a really in response to the issues (mentioned in the original letter)."