MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Quasquicentennial — August 1, 2014

Press conferences are always an interesting proposition. Will the media attend? In the case of yesterday morning’s press conference to voice concerns about the planned conversion of currently free lanes on the San Diego 405 Freeway into toll lanes, the media definitely showed up. And so did numerous elected representatives from the corridor cities.

It’s a shame when it appears that governmental agencies do not collaborate in a cooperative and forthright manner. It’s a farce when one requests a locally preferred alternative from the other and disregards it. It’s infuriating when an agency publicly declares that it knows what is best for the constituents, while at the same time ignoring those same constituents who are impacted and their elected representatives. It’s tribute when that governmental agency requires you to pay a tax for which there will be no direct benefit for your expenditure. The recent taking of carpool lanes and converting them to toll lanes has not provided an extremely resounding improvement in traffic throughput in LA County. It appears that putting more cars in the general purpose lanes is a strategy to force drivers to pay the tolls. Therefore, in spite of the cries that this is not being done for the money, that claim by Caltrans rings hollow. It is about the money.

The Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot and the Daily Pilot cover the press conference in the piece below.

BONUS: Happy Birthday, Orange County! On August 1st, 1889, Orange County’s splitting off from Los Angeles County became official. Happy Quasquicentennial!

Public officials object to 405 toll lanes, ‘schoolyard bully’ Caltrans

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor is joined by other officials at news conference criticizing the freeway plan.

By Bradley Zint

With the steady hum of morning traffic behind them, public officials from cities along Orange County’s 405 Freeway corridor gathered in Costa Mesa on Thursday to decry a state proposal to add toll lanes to the busy thoroughfare.

Led by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) at his South Coast Drive field office, the group from Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and other areas sharply criticized the California Department of Transportation‘s recent announcement of plans to replace the 405 carpool lane with a toll option on a 14-mile stretch of the freeway, from Costa Mesa to the 605 Freeway near Rossmoor.

Caltrans’ decision comes amid universal opposition to the idea from the Orange County Transportation Authority board and affected cities along the 405. OCTA’s board in December had approved a toll-free option.

Mansoor, a former Costa Mesa mayor now running for county supervisor, called Caltrans’ decision "a money grab."

"Never has anything of this magnitude been done without local cooperation and local funding," he said. "So this is going forward, or appears to be going forward, without any real direction."

The toll road plan, estimated to cost $1.7 billion, also would add one new general-purpose lane in each direction.

The state agency expects $1.3 billion for the project to come from Measure M funds. Voters agreed to the small sales tax increase to finance local transportation projects.

Los Alamitos Mayor Gerri Graham-Mejia compared Caltrans to a schoolyard bully taking lunch money from Orange County residents who approved the tax.

Nowhere in the Measure M wording is funding for toll roads mentioned, said county Supervisor John Moorlach.

Seal Beach Councilman Michael Levitt, who represents Leisure World, said the tolls would be a financial burden on hundreds of fixed-income seniors.

Over the years, they have relied on the free carpool lanes, he said.

"Caltrans wants to take that away from us…. Now that free lane is going to cost $10 or $12," Levitt said.

Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer, referring to the 405 corridor cities’ persistent protests of the toll idea, said: "What is wrong with the answer ‘no’?"

The Costa Mesa City Council is expected to consider a resolution Tuesday "confirming the city’s opposition to the use of Measure M funds in building toll lanes on the 405 Freeway without voter approval," according to a city news release.

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