OCTA’s Will Kempton to betray OC voters with 405 Toll Lanes?


(E-mail ALL the OCTA Board Members by clicking HERE.)

Is OCTA CEO Will Kempton preparing to betray Orange County voters?

Kempton seems to be herding the stumblebums who sit on the OCTA board towards an ill-advised scheme to convert two lanes on the 405 freeway to “Express” toll lanes. This is one of three alternatives that has been presented, clearly the staff preference. This subversion of our public assets is probably very appealing to nasty little ideologues like Don Hansen and Toll Road Jerry Amante, who truly believe all the Reason foundation right-wing propaganda about privatizing public assets.

It’s not hard to recall the exact promises of the Measure M renewal campaign, which came before voters in November, 2006. The information pamphlet that was mailed to every Orange County voter is still up on the OCTA web site.

What appears in that detailed presentation was no accident, but rather the result of a two year process, guided by the brilliant tactician Monte Ward, to produce an overwhelming consensus and steer off any organized major opposition campaign. With a 2/3 threshold in an anti-tax county, there wasn’t a lot of room for error. Polls showed that there was almost a 30% automatic “NO” vote, so any controversy or campaign that could generate 50,000 votes in opposition would take down the campaign.

Renewal proponents negotiated with environmental groups to buy their acquiescence with a guaranteed 5% of the revenues going to acquisition of sensitive habitat lands.

Local cities were brought on board with a new package of funding for local streets and every one of the 34 cities in Orange County approved the specific list of projects in the capital improvement plan.

There was a transit component, but it was designed to avoid any single new project like the controversial Center-line, instead focusing on expanding the existing Metro-Link proposal, and offering a “Go Local” fund of projects to be determined later.

It’s no accident that there was absolutely no mention of subsidizing toll roads anywhere in the literature, while the word “Freeway” appears over and over again. Because if the voters thought they were voting to approve taxes that would pay for toll lanes, Measure M would have failed badly.

The information submitted to voters with Measure M renewal was quite clear that the money could only be spent on designated projects, and that voters would need to approve any changes.

As OCTA says on its website even today,

When new transportation dollars are approved, they should go for transportation and transportation purposes alone. No bait-and-switch. No using transportation dollars for other purposes. The original Measure M went solely for transportation purposes. The Measure M2 is just as airtight.

And not only was the spending of tax dollars detailed at length for specific projects without once mentioning toll lanes, but there was a clear promise of oversight, and the commitment that:

Any significant proposed changes to the Plan must be approved by the Taxpayer Oversight Committee and ratified by a majority of voters.

Now this weasel Kempton attempts to explain that using Measure M money to build toll lanes honors that commitment for one additional general purpose lane, but they are adding extra lanes with extra money.

He’s lying because, in fact, that new free lane will only replace the free carpool lane, while the two new lanes, paid for primarily with Measure M money, will now be controlled by transponders, tolls, surveillance, and punitive fines for the unwary.

So are the voters getting what they were promised – additional FREEWAY lanes on the 405? Absolutely not. They are losing the free open-access car pool lane forever.

Flacks for OCTA try to explain that there would now be two carpool lanes, but The Express lanes could only be used by vehicles who obtain transponders, and the car-pool requirement would increase to three people. Note that this is very different from the current requirement of two people in the car-pool lane, where anyone can use the carpool lane without first registering under the FastTrack surveillance system. And like the Express lanes on the 91, carpools of three or more would pay tolls some of the time, at the discretion of the OCTA board. If it is set up like the 91 Lexus lanes, drivers who sometimes carpool and sometimes drive solo would require a prepaid account, and either a $75 initial payment or a minimum monthly fee. The real goal is to discourage casual carpools and maximize revenues from the small minority of drivers who can afford to pay.

It’s clear that Kempton and his appartchiks are trying to pull a fast one on Orange County voters, so that the clear promises of Measure M will be subverted and tax money will instead be spent in a clear violation of the letter and spirit of Measure M.

However they dance, dodge and weave, there is no new freeway lane in option 3.

If they think voters would approve this change, their path is clear. Let the voters decide in an election. Don’t pretend that trying to gain consensus with an expensive orchestrated outreach program, a postcard mailing only to residents within five hundred yards of the 405 in one part of the county, is sufficient or representative.

If Kempton thinks this is consistent with what voters approved, then he can honor the commitment of Measure M, and bring this plan back to the voters for approval. If he and the OCTA directors do that, they will quickly discover that the taxpayers who will pay the vast majority of the construction cost, while suffering through five years of construction delays, aren’t very interested in Express Lanes that they can’t access conveniently. And voters don’t want to pay tolls on roads that have always been free!

Our Coverage Thus Far:

AND NOW, somebody has created the excellent…

No 405 Tolls.Com!

E-mail ALL the OCTA Board Members by clicking HERE.

About Mayor Quimby