By Jacob WilsonGarden Grove Journal
Westminster Mayor Margie Rice will watch a project to widen the San Diego Freeway closely. If any Westminster businesses are threatened the city will be ready to fight, she said.
“People can take a little longer to get where they’re going, but you will not hurt our businesses,” she told Orange County Transportation Authority representative Nile Barrett.
Barrett presented plans for the OCTA’s San Diego Freeway (I-405) Improvement Project to the City Council on Oct. 26. The project would widen the 405 between the San Gabriel Freeway (I-605) and State Route 73. Traffic on the 405 is expected to increase 40 percent by 2040, Barrett said.
The OCTA hopes to complete the project without taking homes and with little damage to businesses, Barrett said. At that, Rice reiterated she will allow no damages to Westminster businesses.
Three plans are on the table. The first adds one general purpose lane to each side of the freeway for $1.3 billion. Plan two adds two general purpose lanes to each side at $1.4 billion.
Plan three adds a general purpose lane and an express lane to each side for $1.7 billion. Plan three also converts the existing carpool lanes into express lanes. The OCTA would then charge a toll for drivers to use the express lanes.
The OCTA will hold public hearings starting in early 2012. One hearing will be at the Westminster Community Center at a date still to be determined.
The hearings will be in an open house format but will also include Q & A sessions. A court reporter will record the answers. Forms for written questions will also be available.
Most of the money for the project will come from Orange County sales taxes, said Barrett.
“We are fortunate to have our M2 dollars,” he said. “We have no state or federal dollars.”
Orange County voters approved Measure M, adding a half-cent to the sales tax rate for transportation projects in 1991. Voters approved a 30-year renewal, known as “M2,” in 2006.
But the OCTA estimates M2 revenues will only supply $600 million, leaving the project at least $700 million short. Although adding express lanes is more expensive, they would provide income to either pay back money or raise funds for future maintenance.
“The toll lanes will help pay for costs and will have a minimum speed guarantee,” Barrett said. The price of the lanes will be based on traffic conditions. Prices will be lower during light traffic is higher during heavy traffic.