Lots Of Rhetoric, No Real Plan On I-405**(Amended)
At a standing-room-only Town Hall meeting at the Community Services Facility in the city of Westminster last night the Freeway Cities Coalition, officials from the so-called "corridor cities" - Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Westminster, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach plus the enclave of Rossmoor - discussed the current state of affairs surrounding the scheme by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) to widen the I-405 Freeway from Costa Mesa to the Los Angeles County line and install High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes in both directions. You can read Bradley Zint's comprehensive coverage of the meeting in the Daily Pilot, HERE.
NEW OCTA SCHEME
This scheme has been foisted off on the corridor cities after we - they - thought the deal was done for what as then known as Alternative #1 - the addition of one general purpose lane in each direction WITHOUT TOLLS. Alternative #2 would have added an additional lane.Recently the OCTA has back-doored the process with their scheme, called Alternative #3, to add general purpose lane in each direction, a toll lane in each direction, and convert the current High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lane into a HOT lane. You can read more HERE, from the OCTA web site.
The engineering representatives from several of the cities presented their case for Alternate #2, which would basically double the HOV capacity with very little additional cost over #1. The "distinguished panel" from member organizations included our own lovable mayor, Jim Righeimer, John Collins, former Fountain Valley mayor, Matt Harper, councilman from Huntington Beach, Tri Ta, mayor of Westminster, Gary Miller, councilman from Seal Beach, Gerri Graham-Mejia from Seal Beach and Ron Casey from Rossmoor. The event was moderated by Westminster councilwoman Diane Carey.
THIN COSTA MESA TURNOUT
In addition to the panel, the crowd of approximately 150 people included Supervisor John Moorlach - who suggested the move by the OCTA and CalTrans was akin to highway robbery - Assemblyman Allan Mansoor - who muttered nothing important except that his door is always open - our Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, CEO Tom Hatch, Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz and Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman. The only other Costa Mesa faces I recognized were the omnipresent Beth Refakes and her mother, Gladys, although two other people spoke and identified themselves as Costa Mesa residents. I was disappointed that so few of our neighbors showed up for this meeting. This is actually a VERY big deal for us, since the plan would connect the 73 Toll Road with the new toll lanes and, basically, bypass our shopping venues - the Harbor Boulevard of Cars and South Coast Plaza, for example - not to mention being virtually impossible for Costa Mesa residents to use.
ENGINEERS GAVE AN OVERVIEW
Adolfo Ozaeta, a traffic engineer from Westminster, gave some history of this project and included the following two charts.
The panel addressed many issues of concern - a flawed "Degradation Study", enviornmental issues with air pollution, congestion at the northly end of the toll lanes, being effectively double-taxed, since Measure M2 monies are to build the I-405 improvements and then we'd end up paying a toll on top of those costs which are paid by an increase in the sales tax until 2041!
QUESTIONS WITH FEW ANSWERS
Other concerns revolved around just what happens to that toll money? Does it stay in Orange County? Does the State take it away the way it did our Redevelopment Agency money? OCTA and CalTrans were asked to send representatives but declined.
WHAT DID HE SAY?
MOST DON'T WANT TOLL ROADS
All the speakers, including the eighteen members of the public who spoke - including our own Beth Refakes - except one, suggested that this was a bad idea and that "none of us" want tolls. The elected folks suggested we all show up at the OCTA Board meeting on November 8th, when this issue will be discussed. They also handed out a list of the names of the seventeen (17) members of the OCTA Board and suggested they each be contacted and told our views on the subject.
BROADER OUTREACH NEEDED
ANOTHER LAW SUIT? REALLY?!**
I did learn something VERY new after I got home and was watching the television news. Stacey Butler - who was in the audience last night, said on Channel 9, that "Costa Mesa was seriously considering legal action to block the toll road." That's the first time I've heard that, although I missed a couple meetings recently. I guess there's just no issue that we can't solve without a law suit. Geez! Will somebody please double check those campaign contribution lists to see how many lawyers are contributing to which council members? NOTE: Apparently there was conversation about legal action while I was snowed-in earlier this month. Didn't know about it since I couldn't access the internet for awhile. Brad Zint sent me the two following links to stories he wrote at the time, HERE, and also way back in June of 2012, HERE. Thanks to Zint for setting the record straight.
CONTACT THE BOARD
After all the rhetoric for more than two hours I came away with the feeling that the OCTA and CalTrans is going to do what they want, regardless what the residents tell them. However, that doesn't mean we should stop telling them. You can learn about the Board of Directors of the OCTA HERE. And, you can always go to www.octa.net to see the location of the meeting on November 8th at 9:00 a.m.