Mission Viejo

The Not-So-Free Freeways, Part 2

By Ed Sachs

Compliments are in order for the eleven members of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) who listened to both the corridor cities and voters of Orange County, and elected not to bring toll lanes to the 405 freeway, but rather to add one “free” lane in both directions to the 405 between Costa Mesa and Seal Beach. Votes against adding the free lanes were Spitzer, Harper, County Supervisor John Moorlach and Seal Beach Mayor Gary Miller. Construction begins in 2015 and could be completed by 2020.

The vote taken December 9, 2013 affirmed “Alternate 1” which expands the freeway by one lane, fulfilling the promise made to Orange County voters when they approved the Measure M half cent per gallon gasoline sales tax increase.

Federal pressure remains on California to improve traffic flow and usage of single HOV lanes. But many OTCA council members heard your voice and understand the commitment that was made when Orange County voted twice to tax themselves for road improvements, first through Measure M and the second time through Measure M2.

“This is part of the promise that was made to the voters,” said OCTA Board member and Irvine councilman Jeff Lalloway. “Let’s follow through on the promises.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily the final word. The toll lane proposal is still supported by the Orange County Business Council, which has long promoted tolls as a way to manage traffic and raise revenue for road repairs. However, in addition to resistance to double-taxation (since commuters are already being taxed to pay for traffic management and road repairs), local residents could find it difficult to enter and/or exit the toll lane, as entry/exit areas could be limited like those lanes on the 91 freeway. Local businesses might suffer, as toll lanes could pass exits to their communities.

Some of the eleven votes against toll-lanes might raise a “political” question. During discussion on the day of the vote for example, Mission Viejo Councilman Frank Ury said that taking the money for toll lanes on the 405 “would be a kick in the head” to South Orange County. There are a number of south county freeway projects that are in need of funding. But remember Mr. Ury declared during a November Mission Viejo council meeting, that Caltrans would force the toll lanes on Orange County. So why would Councilman Ury originally favor the toll lane plan which he knew at that time would strip monies from south county road projects? Thus he was in favor of the toll lanes until he was against them.

The proposed south county roadwork Councilman Ury is referring to will be on the I-5 south of El Toro to the 73 Toll Road. One lane will be added in each direction from Avery to Alicia. An extension of the HOV lane from El Toro to Alicia is part of the proposal, as well as adding and extending auxiliary lanes while widening Avery and La Paz interchanges in Mission Viejo. To learn more about these plans here is a link that provides detailed information: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/parkway-529498-project-viejo.html

Supervisor Todd Spitzer led a few members to look at preserving space for the two-lane plan, while Assemblyman Alan Mansoor wants legislation to keep toll-lanes off our freeways.

The vote to add a single lane to each side of the 405 still needs support from Caltrans. District Director Ryan Chamberlin is hopeful to have a decision early 2014 and said that Caltrans would want to move forward in a collaborative manner.

Ed Sachs and his family have lived in Mission Viejo since 1991. Ed spent 30 years in the consumer electronics industry and was inducted in the Hall of Fame. He retired as President Emeritus at Pioneer Electronics in 2009. Since retirement, Ed has opened his own leadership-consulting agency while becoming active in the community. In 2012, Ed ran for Mission Viejo City Council. Ed and his wife Leagh, an accomplished and award winning photographer, have two sons, David and Daniel.

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