OCTA Board Reviews I-405 Widening

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Commuters along Interstate 405 may find current car pool lanes converted to toll lanes under one of three freeway widening plans being reviewed by the board of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

The OCTA board is expected to make a decision by late summer on which plan to adopt. The goal is to reduce congestion along a 14-mile stretch of the freeway from about state Route 55 in Costa Mesa to Interstate 605 in Seal Beach.

Estimated costs range from $1.3 billion for simply adding a new regular freeway lane in each direction to $1.7 billion for putting in the toll lanes plus a free lane in each direction.

Actual construction isn’t likely to begin until at least 2015 and would be completed in stages over a maximum of 4½ years, according to staff reports.

Comments from the public on the plans are being taken by OCTA through July 2.

OCTA staff and board members reported Monday that in recent public meetings, residents of one Costa Mesa neighborhood turned out to complain about the impact of numerous changes in recent years to the Fairview Road overpass.

The residents are suffering from “construction fatigue,” OCTA manager Jim Beil told the board. OCTA Chief Executive Will Kempton said efforts will be made to minimize future impact on the neighborhood but at least one of the proposed plans again calls for closing the Fairview ramps for up to 30 days.

Alternative 3, the most extensive proposal, would add two new lanes in each direction. One new lane each way would be free. The other would be a toll lane. That toll lane would be combined with the existing carpool lane to create two toll lanes in each direction.

Cars with one or two passengers would have to pay the tolls. But cars with three or more passengers could travel the toll lanes for free, according to OCTA staff.

The goal is to encourage people to carpool and cut congestion.

“Today, the San Diego Freeway (I-405) is one of the most congested freeways in Orange County, carrying more than 300,000 vehicle trips in some sections each day,” according to OCTA’s report on the planned widening.

The area that is proposed for widening passes through Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Westminster, Garden Grove, Seal Beach and unincorporated Rossmoor.

It includes on and offramps for 15 streets and four freeway interchanges with state Route 73, state Route 22 east and west, and I-605.

Even so, according to the plans, no houses would have to be condemned to allow for the widening, although “many partial acquisitions of land from publicly and privately owned parcels would be required.”

However, three businesses in Fountain Valley at Warner Avenue probably would be bought: Sports Authority, Days Inn Hotel and the Fountain Valley Skating Center. A fourth, the Boomers entertainment center, would have part of its land acquired, according to staff reports.

Altogether, the current plans call for taking more than 13.93 acres in Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Westminster, Seal Beach and Rossmoor.

But planners already are planning for one potential driver complaint: In the weeks of the big Christmas shopping season and the after-Christmas sales, onramps and offramps to the big shopping malls won’t be closed.

Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/tracyVOC.

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