Tuesday, March 03, 2015

I-405 Toll Lanes A "Dangerous, Slippery Slope"

KIM AND HARPER ANNOUNCE AB 1459
This morning - on a bright, sunny morning, in a parking lot on the haunches of the I-405 Freeway in Costa Mesa - Fullerton Assemblywoman Young Kim, Huntington Beach Assemblyman Matt Harper and several members of the 405 Freeway Cities Coalition held a press conference to announce the introduction of Assembly Bill 1459, co-authored by Kim and Harper.
 WOULD REQUIRE A 2/3 VOTE OF RESIDENTS
The bill, if passed, would hamstring the efforts of CalTrans to turn segments of major Orange County highways into toll roads by requiring a 2/3 vote of Orange County voters before ANY "toll facilities" could be constructed or implemented on any public highway in Orange County.  "Toll Facility" is described as, "a toll road, toll bridge, toll lane, or any other facility on a public highway within boundaries of the County of Orange for which a toll is to be charged, and includes the entire length of the portion of the public highway that is subject to the toll".  It also includes a high-occupancy toll lane.
MANY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES PRESENT
In addition to Kim and Harper, those present included Costa Mesa Rookie Mayor Steve Mensinger and Councilwoman Katrina Foley; Huntington Beach Mayor Jill Hardy; Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey; Seal Beach Councilman Gary Miller; Fountain Valley Councilman Mark McCurdy and Rossmoor Community Services District Director Ron Casey.  There were also representatives of the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) present to observe.  It is the extension of the San Joaquin Toll Road that got this whole thing going in the first place.  Their organization will make a presentation at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting tonight.
THE MEDIA
The event was covered by ABC, NBC, PBS SoCal, Radio Station KFI, The Daily Pilot and a couple bloggers - Vern Nelson from The Orange Juice Blog and me.
HARPER LAUNCHED, THEN HANDED OFF TO CAREY
Harper kicked the event off by making introductions and a short speech.  He then handed the baton to Carey, who provided some background on this issue and emphasized the need for the proposed widening of the I-405 through the corridor cities - Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Westminster, Seal Beach and Los Alamitos - in which $1.3 billion of Measure M2 funds are proposed for this project.  She stressed the lanes should be FREE lanes, including any High Occupancy Lanes.

MILLER NEXT UP...
Next Miller, the Seal Beach councilman and member of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board, spoke.  He also stressed the need to NOT build Toll Lanes.
KIM CARRIED THE BALL
Next up was Young Kim, who described this attempt to hijack the freeway expansion for use as a toll facility as a "dangerous, slippery slope".  She said "We cannot allow Caltrans to force toll lanes down our throats."  She emphasized that it should be the decision of the residents of Orange County, not the state bureaucrats in Sacramento".  She stated that, "the Orange County Transportation Authority has twice voted to reject toll lanes of the I-405, yet Caltrans continues to try and march forward."  She painted a picture of such toll lanes being created throughout the state if this initiative by Caltrans is not successfully opposed.
NO VISIBLE STATEWIDE DEMOCRAT SUPPORT
I heard the speeches and agree with the idea, but worry about the ability of Kim and Harper to get this bill passed in a greedy, tax-oriented Democrat-dominated legislature.  For example, while there were local elected Democrats at this press conference, there were NO state-wide elected Democrats present.  This does not bode well for the possibility of this bill passing.  I hope they can convince some Democrats in the Assembly and/or the Senate to hop on board with this bill, or I fear it will follow the same path that most bills introduced by Republicans recently have taken - straight into the toilet.  I guess we'll see.  Stay tuned...

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