It’s War. CalTrans moves to impose 405 Tolls. WE start the OC Drivers’ Union.




Well, what do you think?

I mean, we’ve been fighting this here for a couple of years. And our friend Westminster Councilwoman Diana Lee Carey has been fighting it for twice as long.  And they’re still coming at us with the same BS arguments.

Except now there’s a new “them.”  It had been the leadership of the OCTA (staff) with a lot of support (but not quite ENOUGH) from the politicians on the OCTA Board – who were hellbent on imposing toll lanes on the busiest part of the 405, from Seal Beach to Harbor.

Now, suddenly, it’s CalTrans – the California Department of Transportation – who, in a completely unprecedented move, are decreeing that we need to do this.   But they’re using the same old lines the OCTA toll trolls used to use.  Let’s go over those again.  In CalTrans’ latest dispatch they claim:

Under Caltrans plan, OCTA would construct one general-purpose lane on the San Diego Freeway (I-405) in each direction between Euclid Street and the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605). This will allow OCTA to move forward on the freeway improvement project that was promised to voters in Measure M. All of the Measure M Project K funding would be directed toward adding the one general-purpose lane. Caltrans will pursue funding for the construction of an additional lane in each direction that would combine with the existing high-occupancy vehicle lane to operate as high-occupancy toll lane facility.

Do you see what they are still doing?  This is the same old “Alternative 3” that OCTA has been trying to foist on the area for years now;  and they are still pretending that it somehow gives us taxpaying drivers one new free lane for the $1.3 or $1.4 billion we have paid in Measure M sales tax, not to mention the five years of construction with seventeen bridges being torn down and rebuilt.

No, in this plan they want to foist on us, we get NO NEW FREE LANES.  Okay, one more time:  On this stretch we currently have five free lanes including the 2+ carpool lane, lanes which any of us can use, which cost nothing.  OCTA/CalTrans wants to

  • build one new free lane on the outside using our $1.3 to $1.4 billion to expand the bridges,
  • then build themselves a new lane on the inside to convert into an expensive toll lane – which will cost them an additional $.4 billion which they’ll probably try to fund with expected toll revenue;
  • then they’ll also make our current free carpool lane into a toll lane so that there will be two toll lanes;
  • for a total of seven lanes, only FIVE of which will be free.  So we drivers who don’t choose to pay hefty tolls but who HAVE taxed ourselves billions of Measure M sales taxes over the years get NOTHING new.  (Except that one of our free lanes is no longer 2+ occupancy, BFD.)

How convenient now that CalTrans, who “owns the state’s highways” and would like to claim that they can do whatever they want with them, are ordering exactly what the pro-toll forces on the OCTA have been wanting to do for years, but have been unable to politically because of popular opposition.  But it is OUR Orange County money that they’ll be using to do it;  this whole project would be impossible without first using our $1.3 to $1.4 billion, no matter how they spin it;  and those of us who voted yes on Measure M (twice) would never have voted to fund building toll lanes on our highway.

When asked last year why CalTrans was not considering imposing toll lanes on LA county’s equally congested freeways, the answer from District Director Ryan Chamberlain was “LA doesn’t have the money for us to do that”  – proving our point, which they deny, that they’re planning to use our Measure M money to impose tolls on us.

And who doubts that the motivation here is toll revenue that they (presumably OCTA) can play with?  But they have become very disciplined about pretending that this is all about “throughput” – that Alternative 3 with its two toll lanes is the best solution to the 405’s congestion or “degradation.”  BS – the best solution for our congestion – what will get ALL of us taxpaying drivers moving quicker – is the modified Alternative 2 that we have been fighting for and which we’ve paid for – TWO new FREE lanes.

What communications have there been to make CalTrans do this to us?  How did OCTA brass get the big boys to come in and say “You have to do what OCTA brass wants to do?”  We want to know how they made this happen.

This will have to be fought in court. 

And so there needs to be a plaintiff, an injured party. 

And so, for this purpose, we are forming  The Orange County Drivers’ Union, a 501c4 non-profit.  

Who can be part of this?  YOU can.  Anyone who drives on the 405 sometimes and who pays sales taxes in Orange County, and chances are that’s you.  That’s gotta be hundreds of thousands of us – all of whom will be ripped off and injured by this toll lane scheme.

Let’s do this – we need $500 to start the group.  Keep your eyes on the Orange Juice Blog for more details (and let us know what you think in comments.)

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.