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In our last dispatch on the 405 Tolls controversy, we intimated that a convenient convergence between Federal law and state law on low-emission vehicles and carpool lanes had opened up an opportunity for the forces on OCTA who have always wanted to put toll lanes on our highways. Now they are able to say that, due to new federal laws that require single-occupancy low-emission vehicles to not have to go under 45 MPH during rush hour too many times in a month, combined with state laws that allow these velhicles to ride for free in carpool lanes, Caltrans is going to force us to put tolls on those lanes, and if we don’t let OCTA do the tolling first, “we” will lose the ability to keep all this new revenue in our County!
It really doesn’t make much sense, putting tolls on the two inner lanes as OCTA is dying to do would slow the hell out of the other lanes, AND be a ripoff of us OC taxpayers who voted to tax ourselves to widen the 405, and are ready willing and able to shell out $1.4 billion of our already-paid taxes to build TWO NEW FREE LANES. And most of us, conservative moderate or liberal, dislike the whole idea of a two-tiered society enshrined in a toll-lane world.
In any case, Westminster councilwoman Diana Lee Carey, who’s been fighting the OCTA on this issue since before most of us ever heard of it, has deemed it worthwhile to write letters to the OC’s federal delegation – our six Congresscritters and California’s two senators – apprising them how UNHELPFUL current Federal law is to our efforts to keep our Freeways Free. Here’s the one to DiFi:
Senator Dianne Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Feinstein;
We have a troubling situation centering on transportation planning in Orange County and across the State. In 2012, Congress passed the Moving Ahead for Progress Act (MAP 21). This act requires that Low Emission Vehicles using the HOV lanes must travel at 45mph, 90% of the time during the morning and evening rush hour. The LEVs make up less than 1.5% of the HOV lane users, but they have triggered a degradation report that finds nearly all HOV lanes in the State to be out of compliance. MAP 21 requires the agency to come up with a transportation plan within 180 days of the certification of the report. We have approximately 120 remaining. This is not a good transportation planning process.
Caltrans has stated that the solutions need to be far-reaching. The Corridor Cities position is that the OCTA, and Caltrans, through the Federal government, are usurping ten years of careful transportation planning relating to our M2 sales tax funded projects. We feel that a County and inter-jurisdictional solution to transportation issues is the only prudent way to proceed forward.
Let me give you one example. I am sure you are aware that Caltrans would like to convert the HOV lane from the I-605 to LAX into a HOT lane. When I asked Ryan Chamberlain of Caltrans, if the agency was going to force that solution on the MTA, as they are forcing it on the I-405 in the OC, he said they could not because Caltrans and the MTA did not have any money. But, this is the very thing they are promoting to the OCTA Directors in Orange County. Caltrans has said many times, that if the OCTA does not build a HOT lane, they will build it and keep the proceeds. The Board is very fearful of this occurring. It is very clear that they are only able to build these lanes in Orange County because of the infrastructure provided by M2 sales tax revenues.
The Corridor Cities would like a moratorium on MAP 21, until such time as a well thought out County and inter-jurisdictional plan can be developed. We do not want to be subject to a toll lane experiment merely because we are the next project in line to be built in the County. Nor do we want another NB I-5 bottleneck to be created at the NB I-405 approaching the County line. M2 requires that plans be developed in conjunction with local agencies. Since 2005, all of our cities have stood firm in rejecting the imposition of toll lanes. For the last year, this stance has put us outside of the planning process.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Diana Lee Carey, Councilwoman, Westminster
Corridor Cities Representative: Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Westminster, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa.
Actually, since this blog helped the late Gus Ayer get Diana onto the Westminster council, it’s kind of dizzying to try to keep up with everything this lady does, so a couple months ago I made her a Facebook page, which I am continually having to update (she is not exactly of the Facebook generation.) It’s worth checking out, liking, and following, if you do that Facebook thing – a lot of what she does affects the whole county.
Oh, and here she is a couple weeks ago on John and Ken, talking about the 405 tolls. Diana Lee Carey, the OC’s most happening Councilperson!
This your (repurposed) Weekend Open Thread. Talk about that, or anything else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of decency and decorum. (NO Dearthwatch this week; last week’s took way too much out of me!) – GD
UPDATE: The OCTA Board had a meeting this morning, Diana dragged me there and she spoke again. The Caltrans threat (and Caltrans seems to be willingly operating as OCTA’s “bad cop”) to put tolls on our OC highways is pure theft from hardworking OCTA taxpayers. They have just as much reason to put tolls on the LA highways but they admitted that “there is not the funding there” to rebuild the highway that way. SO they are using our Measure M2 taxes – stealing them, to force us to either pay tolls or suffer in even worse traffic if we don’t want to pay. Should be grounds for a good lawsuit…