Toll lanes on the 405 Freeway are no-go—for now.
The Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted 12-4 Monday to support a construction plan that would add one lane to both sides of the 405 Freeway from Euclid to the 605 freeway.
About 100 people attended the board meeting, and others watched from an overflow room.
Before the vote, OCTA staff presented three construction options for a proposed expansion of 405 -- not counting the “no build” plan:
- Alternative One – the option that was approved -- would add one lane and cost about $1.3 billion.
- Alternative Two would have added two lanes and cost about $1.4 billion.
- Alternative Three would have added one toll lane, have converted the carpool lane into a second toll lane and added one regular lane at a cost of $1.45 billion, according to OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.
OCTA staff and chief executive officer Will Kempton supported Alternative Three, and a number of Orange County civic leaders opposed it.
Supporters argued Alternative Three is the best way to move the most traffic through the area and has the added advantage of being able to raise money for other transit projects.
Opponents argued Alternative Three will create more traffic in the Orange County cities in the north, will cost too much and will be essentially a “double tax” because the voters are already paying for Measure M2 in sales tax.
During the meeting, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach asked for support for a plan that would be a mix of Alternative One and Two where crews would add two more lanes to the 405 from the 55 to the 22 and then a single lane on both sides of the 405 from the 22 to the 605, to prevent moving a sound wall closer into Seal Beach.
The plan was voted down.
Before the final vote on the single lane option, union reps, city mayors and interested residents spoke during public comments.
“Alternative Three is not good for the local residents in Seal Beach,” said Shelly Sustarsic, Seal Beach resident. “We (would) have no entrances or exits to serve our local residents and business. “
“Any accidents and congestion at the county line will also cause traffic to overflow onto our streets,” Sustarsic said. “Our residents do not want or need more safety problems at the L.A. County line.”
Fountain Valley’s mayor John Collins said that leaders of six of the cities surrounded by the proposed construction area were opposed to Alternative Three.
“The public does not want to pay … $4,000 a year to drive on the 405 Freeway if they take the toll lanes,” Collins said. “The public does not want to lose its carpool lane.”
OCTA estimates about 300,000 people use that stretch of freeway every day, and according to OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik, the number “is projected to grow by approximately 30 to 35 percent over the next 30 years.”
In May, Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority presented county residents with three constructions alternatives for the 405 Improvement Project, along with one “no build option” under which no construction would be done.
OCTA would fund the project, and Caltrans would oversee it.
The project would be funded by M2 funds, the half-cent local transportation tax approved by voters in 1990.
Patrick Kelly, Costa Mesa resident, said Alternatives One and Two wouldn’t relieve traffic like Alternative Three would.
“That’s just a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage,” Kelly said. “You’ll be back here in a few years with more construction and more efforts to fix what’s going on.”
Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of Southern California Association of Governments, also supported Alternative Three and asked the OCTA to consider more than just Orange County residents.
“You’re impacting the 19 million that call Southern California home,” Ikhrata said. “I urge you to look at the regional impact of the project. I urge you to adopt Alternative Three as given by the staff.”
Aside from rejecting a hybrid Alternative Two and One, the board also rejected by a modified Alternative Three that would have it made it so the sound wall near Seal Beach College Park East would not be moved.
Zlotnik said the vote in favor of Alternative One would not prevent OCTA from potentially adding toll lanes in the future.
Peter Herzog, a Lake Forest councilman who voted in favor of the one-lane addition, said the transportation agency isn't finished improving the highway system.
"I don't want this vote to be viewed as 'we're done,'" said Herzog, also an OCTA director. "We're going to do a lot of reviewing."