Scooping the Register and other OC Blogs, John Crandall of the Fountain Valley Patch posted this important story at noon today.
The OCTA Board’s decision is the least costly and least ambitious of the three options that were presented them by their CEO and a staff that very much wanted to introduce TOLL LANES onto the freeway infrastructure. 2nd District Supervisor and OCTA Director John Moorlach (in whose District this widening takes place) wrote
yesterday in the Register that he preferred Alternative Two, which would have added two FREE lanes in each direction of this congested section of the 405. In part, he said:
The reality is, though, that OCTA already has enough available funds to build Alternative 1. With a recent upswing in the economy, it also has enough funding to pursue Alternative 2. In fact, the savings from adding only one lane to the northbound side of I-405, between the 22 and I-605, will nearly cover the additional cost of Alternative 2. Alternative 3 is just a ruse to install a new future revenue source to replace the sales tax when Measure M2 expires.
He’s correct. It makes little sense to do such an ambitious project and NOT take advantage of the designs, which OCTA would have paid a fortune for, to not add as much pavement as possible and affordable (the confusing KTLA-5 story here reports that Alternative One was estimated at $1.3 billion, and Alternative Two was only relatively more expensive at $1.4B). He’s also right that toll lanes are an awful alternative and, in fact, would have been cobbled together from a carpool lane that we taxpayers have already paid for — a better alternative that was not considered would have been to eliminate the “HOV” carpool lane altogether and allow its use by everyone — not just soccer moms and those few people who are lucky enough to be able to form pools at their employers and use it as was originally intended. The OCTA has never adequately studied and justified HOV lanes for their cost and time savings, fuel economy or positive environmental impact. Otherwise, they are political gifts which simply shut up the environmentalists.
The Board took the least controversial of the three Alternatives that had been so heavily debated and put out to the public in one of the OCTA’s expensive road shows a few months ago. Alternative One was the least impactful, least expensive and builds the least for the car commuting public that overpower the 405 every day. We suspect that most of the Board frankly didn’t much care as they don’t use this particular stretch, were tired of the lengthy argument and aren’t affected by the congestion. And what the hell, it’s not their money anyway and they use the 5 to get to their Board meetings from the south county.
The REAL LOSER in this decision is lavishly paid OCTA CEO Will Kempton (pictured) who was all for the toll lanes that would so expand his empire and provide a never-ending source of revenue that he could plow into other dubious projects — maybe a little more light rail as is being foolishly considered in Santa Ana (the sneak return of the CenterLine that SA Mayor Pulido wanted last decade). Pulido’s pal George Pla is seeing a good piece of that ridiculousness already.
Kempton (good pal of Mayor-for-Hire Curt Pringle, Big Lucy Dunn, the anointed head of the Orange County Business Council, and wannabe Anaheim Mayor Kris Murray), formerly the head of Caltrans (where he made less money) needs to take this defeat to heart — his pet social engineering project died an embarrassing death. The vote wasn’t close. It was a terrible idea to marshal his too-large staff and hired engineers into recommending the tolling of a now free stretch of one of the most successful highway infrastructures in the country. It was plain stupid.
For his previous suggestion to raise bus fares and now this debacle, Kempton should seriously consider resigning — or Moorlach and the Board just ought to give him a good shove out the door.
This failure of this mess should be taken seriously — enough so that it’s time to consider this huge 17-member Board ought to now be elected and not appointed via the mysterious good old boy selection process that’s so well hidden from the public, invisible to the press and disguised as fair. We understand the left-leaning League of Cities is somehow also involved with this process, but the bottom line is that the tax-paying, voting public has NO SAY as to who’s sitting on this Board that’s making decisions involving enormous amounts of tax money and daily quality of life. We’d be impressed if someone like Moorlach (who’s termed out in 2014 and won’t likely return to this Board) were to champion such an idea. Moorlach’s a member of LAFCO and well experienced with local agency formation as he’s been campaigning for years to join Los Alamitos, Rossmoor and Seal Beach into a single city. LAFCO needs a say in this, not the League of Cities which has lost membership in the county and has way too much influence itself for an UN-elected body that looks at the OC as a donor County.
Local Public School and Community College Board elections are fiercely competitive — as should the OCTA be since it’s such a great political resume builder and these Board positions are fairly well compensated. As well, the OCTA’s two public member positions should be eliminated as they’re simply popularity contests and payoffs for the politically inept who can’t get elected to something more important than, for example, the Villa Park City Council.