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Caltrans Approves Toll Lanes on 405 Freeway in Orange County, Despite Past Local Backlash

Caltrans Approves Toll Lanes on I-405 in OCGetty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22: A jet flies over congested traffic on the 405 freeway as it comes in to land at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Thanksgiving eve, traditionally the busiest travel day of the year, November 22, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimated 38.3 million people will travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving, and that 4.8 million travelers will fly to their Thanksgiving destinations. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The California Department of Transportation on Friday announced its support for a plan to add two toll lanes to the 405 Freeway in Orange County that has drawn sharp criticism from area residents and local officials in the past.

The plans won’t be finalized until Caltrans’ Orange County district director signs it after an environmental impact report scheduled to be completed in early 2015, the agency said.

The proposal takes the Orange County Transportation Authority’s existing plans to add one free lane in each direction on a nearly 15-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa, a congested section of the freeway that the OCTA said sees 33,000 cars daily.

It also recommends building an additional toll lane and converting the existing carpool lane into a second toll lane, a plan that Caltrans approved despite backlash over the idea in Orange County in December.

“It moves the most vehicles and people per hour, improves air quality, travel times,
and provides trip reliability,” said Ryan Chamberlain, director of the Caltrans district in Orange County.

The OCTA rejected toll lanes in December when it first approved the new free lanes. Several Orange County mayors and state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa, voiced their disapproval of toll lanes, even seeking legislation to stop a potential plan for them.

OC Officials Vote Down 405 Toll Lane Plans

[LA] OC Officials Vote Down 405 Toll Lane Plans
Orange County Lawmakers vote to expand the 405 freeway by adding lanes, not toll roads. The new lanes will run in both directions of the freeway covering the stretch between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa. Vikki Vargas reports from Westminster for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2013.
(Published Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013)

“Once the public’s already paid for a lane with sales taxes or gas taxes it shouldn’t then be taken away from them and only given to people that are willing to pay the eight or 10 dollars a day to use it as a toll lane,” Costa Mesa city council member Jim Righeimer told NBC4 in December.

Construction for the project is expected to begin in 2016, Caltrans said in a statement. The over-$1 billion job to add the free lanes would be mostly funded by the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation projects, the agency said, and Caltrans will find additional funding to construct the new toll lanes.

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