405 Tolls – Mayor Hansen Rebuffed by HB City Council. UPDATE – Fountain Valley Piles On! And now, La Palma!

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In a major setback to proponents of adding tolls to the 405 Freeway, the Huntington Beach City Council turned against their Mayor Don Hansen, an OCTA Director and vocal toll supporter. Hansen has touted the idea of of using $1.67 Billion in taxpayer dollars as the primary source of funding for Toll/Expres Lanes on the 405 Freeway.  Hansen’s rejection came on  a bipartisan vote as Council  Members Shaw, Boardman, Dwyer and Harper all voted to recommend that OCTA select Alternative 2, which delivers two new free lanes in a project expected to be completed by 2019.

Huntington Beach’s Council joins Costa Mesa, Seal Beach, Westminster, Long Beach, Rossmoor, and an association of south LA County cities in questioning the OCTA scheme to bring in billions in new toll revenue under the guise of “congestion relief”.

Public testimony focused on several flaws in the plan to add tolls, including a clear violation of the contract with voters in Measure M, which promised that any major changes to the plan approved by voters would be resubmitted to voters. Hansen continued to insist that Measure M only promised one new lane, and anything beyond one lane was “extra”. Critics noted that we would go from a freeway configuration with five free lanes to a new configuration with five free lanes and two toll lanes. Commentors also noted that “freeways” were mentioned over 150 times in information presented to voters regarding the plan for spending Measure M sales tax money,  while the words “toll”, “toll lanes” and “Express Lanes were never mentioned. Council Member Devin Dwyer cited respect for the voters’ intent as the major reason for his vote in favor of new free lanes on the Freeway.

Further information noted in public comments included the one “Big Lie” – that the toll scheme was not about the billions in new revenue, but instead was proposed for “congestion relief”. This claim was based on projections from one report regarding one section of the 405 Freeway in one direction during one hour on a weekday in 2040. Another more recent report commissioned by OCTA to evaluate traffic and revenue showed markedly different numbers, including  that each freeway lane would carry 94% more volume than each toll/express lane if you looked at 365 days a year and 24 hours a day.

Another issue noted by Council Member Joe Shaw regarded the many questions raised repeatedly by the public and other cities about what happens when traffic from carpool lanes, free lanes and toll lanes would merge back and forth. The West County Connector project now under construction will provide smooth direct connections between carpool lanes on the 405, 605 and 22. The proposed toll lanes would generate significant new merging movements, as two-thirds of the vehicles that qualify as carpools would be forced to use the free lanes, while vehicles willing to pay tolls would merge into the two left lanes, but then be forced to merge back into the free lanes at the Los Angeles County line traveling northbound or when the southbound toll lanes ended in Costa Mesa.

Proposed new carpool restrictions for the toll lanes would require three passengers in any vehicle while current car pool requirements are for two passengers.

The next cities to vote on the proposed toll lanes are Fountain Valley and La Palma, which both have meetings tonight. The Fountain Valley staff report recommends supporting the proposal with two free lanes and rejecting the scheme for converting lanes to Toll/Express facilities.


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