Possible 405 Freeway Toll Lanes Spur Debate

The Orange County Transit Board is at odds with Caltrans over proposed toll lanes on the 405 Freeway.

The Orange County Transit Board voted Monday to add lanes to a stretch of the San Diego (405) Freeway.

The plan was for a general purpose lane in each direction on Interstate 405 between Euclid Street and Interstate 605.

But some people fear a plan by state transportation officials to create high-occupancy toll lanes, or "HOT" lanes, on the 405. The concept of such lanes on the 405 has spurred heated debate in Orange County.

"This is irresponsible to allow Caltrans to come here in Orange County and tell us what is right for us," Westminster Councilwoman Diane Carey said.

With Caltrans and the OC Transit Board at odds, the fulfillment of Measure M remains uncertain. In November, voters approved a 50-cent tax hike in exchange for the general widening of the 405 in both directions.

"They [members of the OC Transit Board] want to move forward delivering what was promised to the voters of Orange County," Joel Zlotnik, a spokesman for the OC Transit Authority, said.

Under state law, Caltrans has the authority to do what it deems necessary to improve the freeways.

"We're convinced it's best for the citizens of California," said Caltrans spokesman David Richardson.

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that Caltrans lacks adequate funding. However, it is only a matter of time before Caltrans discovers alternative ways of paying for its project.

At which point, the Orange County Transit Authority will no longer be able to put the brakes on the Caltrans plan.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Orange County Transit Board voted to strike down the building of toll lanes on the San Diego (405) Freeway. Board member Todd Spitzer made a motion to formally oppose the idea of having toll lanes installed. That vote failed.

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