405 Tolls: Eric Bever’s Modest Proposal for CalTrans




WHILE we are printing pieces that The Register and its subsidiaries refuse to, here is a response Eric Bever wrote to a typically whory pro-toll editorial (“Toll Lanes on I-405 Worth Reconsideration,” Sept 22, apparently not available online) which they found unfit.  Eric became Costa Mesa mayor toward the end of his eight-year council term, when Gary Monahan couldn’t handle it any more.  Eric’s finest moment as mayor was leading the six “corridor cities” (along with Westminster Councilwoman Diana Lee Carey) in their fight against toll lanes on the 405.  Here’s Eric:

In response to the ongoing controversy regarding the 405 Freeway and CALTRANS stated intention to place a 4-lane toll facility on the 405, please consider the following: The county’s 405 widening project, which was re-affirmed by OCTA yesterday, spends billions of our OC Measure M tax dollars to widen (lengthen) 17 bridges over the 405. This massively disruptive series of 3 to 5 year projects will create enough new freeway width to allow for 4 additional lanes, 2 southbound, 2 northbound. CALTRANS needs 4 new lanes to build its 405 toll facility.

Accordingly, since the CALTRANS toll option will require all 4 lanes of the new freeway width, then CALTRANS should pay the cost of extending the 17 bridges to create the space they need for their toll facility. This approach will leave over $1.3 Billion of previously un-allocated Measure M money on the table for OCTA to use throughout our county.

As for the proposed function of the toll lanes, we are now told that cars with 2 or more passengers will ride free. Beware, that is not what the prior discussions included, indeed, all users even those with more than 3 occupants would pay during heavy traffic periods. To make matters worse, Governor Brown just signed a bill which, according to the Register, “…requires freeway high occupancy toll lane operators (what is being proposed for the 405) to allow clean air vehicles to drive for free or a reduced rate.”

Given the state and federal push for greater use of these types of vehicles, the toll facility faces a diminishing revenue stream moving into the future. Whether the state picks up the full 405 widening tab or just the cost of paving 2 lanes OC is not planning to pave right away, CALTRANS would build its 405 toll facility using bond debt under the assumption that the bonds will be paid back by tolls. Given mandated future increases in “clean air” vehicles and the Governor’s new mandate, CALTRANS’ 405 toll facility sounds a lot like a planned-fail which will eventually require massive taxpayer bailouts.

Despite these red flags, If CALTRANS must have 4 new toll lanes on the 405, then by all means CALTRANS should pay the full freight, and OCTA should leave our 405 money ($1.3 Billion Measure M tax dollars) on the table for our use under Orange County’s sole discretion.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.