Orange County agency considers toll lanes for Interstate 405 — again

Orange County Transportation Authority

A new connector bridge along a stretch of I-405 in Orange County is one of several improvement projects intended to improve traffic along one of the most congested freeways in the U.S.

A coalition of Orange County cities wants to hear what the public thinks about the idea of adding toll lanes to a stretch of the 405 freeway. The cities plan a town hall-style forum at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Westminster. 

The 405 Freeway Cities Coalition is comprised of Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Westminster. 

According to a release from the coalition, one council member from each city is expected to be on hand to hear public comments.

In September, the Orange County Transportation Agency voted to consider adding toll lanes  between State Route 55  and Interstate 605. The proposal is seen as a way to speed up traffic between Costa Mesa and the Los Angeles county border.

The OCTA said if the toll lanes are added, at least one free lane in each direction would be included as part of its I-405 Improvement Project.

A portion of the money to widen the freeway would come from the county's Measure M funds - a voter-approved  half-cent sales tax for transportation.

Adding toll lanes was included in one of three alternatives for the I-405 Improvement Project considered by the OCTA board in 2012. That alternative would have converted an existing carpool lane to a toll lane.  

The board ultimately voted to approve another alternative, which did not include adding toll lanes, that would widen I-405 by adding one general purpose lane in each direction between Euclid Street and I-605.

OCTA said it's considering the toll lanes again partly because the 2012 federal transportation bill requires cars to travel at 45 mph or more 90 percent of the time. The agency said that's not happening in the carpool lanes along I-405 in Orange County. 

Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman said adding toll lanes on I-405 is a bad idea. She said the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6-1 to oppose the plan. 

"Even having one toll lane on a public freeway is something this council doesn't support," she said. "I don't know of any city along the corridor that supports the toll lanes."

The OCTA said traffic volumes on I-405 are expected to increase significantly as the population grows an expected 11 percent by 2040. 

Interstate 405 in Orange County is considered on the busiest stretch of freeway in the country, carrying more than 370,000 cars a day.

The town hall is set to take place at the Westminster Community Services Building at 8300 Westminster Boulevard.

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