Caltrans Wants OUR Tax Money for Toll Lanes
Every Orange County sales taxpayer took it up the backside last month with Caltrans’ announcement that it intends to convert a general purpose lane on a 12-mile stretch of the I-405 to a TOLL LANE AFTER it’s built with $1.3 billion of OCTA Measure M2 money that was committed to NEVER be used for tolling. Caltrans then also intends to spend $400 million of funds they don’t have to also convert the existing HOV/Carpool lane to tolling. A trip from one end to the other might cost more than $12.00, or over $1/mile.
On a busy day, an estimated 379,000 vehicles pile onto a section of I-405 from Seal Beach Boulevard to the 22 freeway, according to the Federal Highway Administration, based on 2011 traffic counts. That makes it the busiest interstate in any American city.
Big Lucy Dunn (who lives in Coto and commutes to Irvine) also used the Register to push for the toll lanes and not for OC’s commuters which suffer the 405 daily (usually twice), but don’t patronize her OC Business Council members. Even the failing OC Register is editorially unopposed to the toll lanes. Dunn is also a Jerry Brown-appointee to the California Transportation Commission which assists in selling this crap in Sacramento. No fan of Dunn, SD2 Supervisor and OCTA Board Member John Moorlach called Caltrans’ move a “bait and switch”. Moorlach’s been clear that he and his constituents do NOT want these toll lanes which would run entirely through his District. Moorlach also favored Alternative #2 when the OCTA’s 405 Widening project was considered last year. Alternative #2 proposed TWO free general purpose lanes, for only an eight percent more than Alternative #1’s single pair of lanes ($1.4B vs. $1.3B) and apparently needing no alterations to over a dozen bridge crossings over the freeway. Moorlach was right — for a mere $100 million, the new lane capacity could have been doubled, and it was plain stupidity that his Board peers could not see the economy in that. Caltrans wants no additional free lanes, only those which generate revenue.
Moorlach’s first allies in opposition to the toll lane takeover were Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey and Huntington Beach Mayor Mathew Harper. Carey had a good interview with KFI’s John and Ken last week (here, beginning at 16:05). Caltrans spokeshole and non-voting Board participant Ryan Chamberlain was to have come on air after Carey, but he never made it. No explanation or apology to KFI listeners was offered. Harper editorialized in the Daily Pilot on the 25th: I am committed to stopping 405 toll lanes. In part,
…the proposal to convert freeway lanes into toll lanes on the 405 Freeway in Orange County uses Measure M sales tax dollars. The measure was approved by the voters for freeway construction, and the money should not go toward tollway construction. Nor should it be used to convert existing freeway lanes into toll lanes…many leaders in Orange County oppose the conversion of freeway lanes into toll lanes: Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer, Fountain Valley Mayor Michael Vo, Seal Beach Mayor Ellery Deaton, Westminster Mayor Tri Ta and many others. On the board of the Orange County Transportation Authority, directors John Moorlach and Gary Miller have joined…in…opposition to the conversion of freeway lanes into toll lanes.
Harper should have been more definitive. The M2 money can not be used for toll lane construction — M2 barely passed as it was (and only with an OCTA-paid campaign by thankfully ex-CEO Art Leahy and PR flak/Curt Pringle toadie Jeff Flint). I remember the huge party they threw with our money at the Irvine Hyatt the night the Measure passed. If Caltrans gets their way, there’ll certainly be a lawsuit (but not by the OC Taxpayers Association — more likely someone with our interests in mind will step forward). The always professional Harper also used his DP Commentary to bash his AD74 opponent Keith Curry who, he implied, would favor the toll lanes and a mileage tax.
Curry has a reasonable position at this time that supports Measure M’s intent — from his campaign website:
We must get the state out of local decisions. Toll lanes, fire rings, rehab group homes, and other issues should be decided locally by accountable city councils and local policy makers, not by state bureaucrats.
AD74’s Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, the former Mayor of Costa Mesa, published this editorial in the Daily Pilot on August 4th: Stop the 405 toll-lane money grab. In part,
Orange County voters have twice voted for Measure M, the half-cent sales tax, to pay for transportation needs in Orange County. The Measure M promise was clear: a new lane in each direction on the 405 from Costa Mesa to Seal Beach. Caltrans, like OCTA before it, wants to use Measure M funds to further increase revenue through the addition of toll lanes on the 405. While support for toll lanes is seen primarily among special interests and government bureaucrats, many elected leaders have remained silent. They seem unwilling to draw the ire of special interests that want toll lanes for their own benefit. I’m open to a variety of ways to finance new construction, but converting existing lanes that we’ve already paid for into toll lanes is wrong.
Mansoor’s right also — there aren’t enough local “leaders” behind this — the left column of the KeepThe405Free.com website should list every council member and mayor in the six affected cities, plus both Assemblymen and SD1 Supervisor Janet Nguyen (who’s too cowardly touch the issue in this election year, and won’t risk a loss in campaign contribution from the back row of contractors, vendors and tax thieves at OCTA Board meetings).
Mansoor is running for Moorlach’s Supervisorial post and apparently is well behind the carpetbagging Michelle Steel in fundraising. Steel takes NO position on the toll lanes, indicative of her inexperience (and interest?) in the District. Will she bow to
Nguyen’s friends the “special interests” if she beats Mansoor and takes the powerful OCTA Director’s seat that’s reserved for every County Supervisor? Is she taking their money now for her campaign? Is her Republican National Committeeman husband involved or connected to those special interests? Westminster’s Carey was mentioned in recent coverage of the OCTA Board meeting by the union-funded Voice of OC:
…Diana Carey, who represents cities along the freeway in northwest Orange County, told a meeting of the Orange County Transportation Authority that voters never were told before they approved a half-percent county sales tax in 2006 that funds from the road construction ballot measure might be used to help build controversial freeway toll lanes. “It is unequivocally not what the voters passed for the improvement of the I-405,” said Carey, referring to ballot Measure M2. Toll lanes, she said, would be “not only violating the spirit of M2, but we will never get another transportation tax passed in this county.” Carey was one of several opponents who spoke against Caltrans’ newly-announced plan to create two Orange County toll lanes on the 405 by eventually adding another lane in each direction and converting the existing carpool lane into a toll lane. “I got calls from people who want to rescind M2 now, they’re so angry about it,” Carey added.
Carey’s constituents have the right idea. In order to foil Caltrans’ scheme for converting a 405 free lane which OC taxpayers have already or will pay for, let’s cut off the money.
Measure M should be rescinded by popular vote
Measure M can’t have already accumulated the $1.3 billion that OCTA needs to build the single lane as it has underperformed thru the Obama “recovery”, but it should over the rest of its almost 20-year life. Caltrans has already admitted it does not have the $400 million it needs to convert the HOV/Carpool lane for electronic tolling. Caltrans can NOT be allowed to take our locally raised funding for social engineering and to build anything that’s not proven successful (like the toll and HOV lanes they’ve built in LA County). Toll lanes do not reduce congestion or accommodate growth — that’s only accomplished by increasing the amount of FREEway pavement (that’s never been built by the Brown administration). M is Orange County money raised for only Orange County’s needs, and was necessary as Brown and his predecessors kept dipping into State transportation funds for other uses. In her radio interview, Diana Carey lauded Measure M for all the good it had done (at least in Westminster, there was a needed one-lane widening of the freeway done with a minimum of effort) — OCTA even brags about them here in a professional produced M-funded You Tube video. Carey, who is not an OCTA Director but probably could be if taxpayer/voters were ever allowed to elect this Board, should be more aware of Measure M’s collection of turkeys:
1) ARTIC – the $200+ million glass barn that needn’t have been built for 150 daily train commuters
2) Anaheim’s $318 million Streetcar that won’t quite connect Disneyland and ARTIC for Gov. Brown’s Bullet Train that can never be paid for, and will never be built
4) The Go Local Project designed to attract more ridership to the Metrolink even tho OCTA bus routes have been long established to its OC stations
5) The $19/ride Irvine iShuttle which connects no one to no where
This simple list represents well over $700 million of squandered Measure M and M2 funds. Ending Measure M and stopping the toll lanes can’t be done with an amateurish petition — the taxpayers who approved it years ago must understand its money’s been copiously misappropriated and used especially for mass transit projects that, like the CenterLine that was successfully stopped, won’t work in Orange County or anywhere else. M’s primary goal was to lay pavement — transit carries less than five percent of our population. Measure M hasn’t been the success it could have been, and it wouldn’t have been necessary at all if Sacramento hadn’t stolen transportation funding for other liberal causes. And as we published last week, Caltrans is the last partner we need: Right, Let’s Do Business with Caltrans. There’s more on Caltrans here from former OCR editorialist Steve Greenhut: Bridge report depicts Caltrans secrecy. If Caltrans and its masters can’t be stopped from building the 405 toll lanes with our money, then the simplest way to prevent it is to shut off the funds — stop the Measure M 1/2-cent sales tax grab at our next opportunity. We believe that can be done with a simple ballot measure, just like it was originally passed.