405 Freeway toll vote postponed in Orange County amid uncertainty


Janine Parker put a lot into her home of 22 years, but she is worried about what will happen. Her house sits right next to the 405 Freeway in Fountain Valley.

"It's my retirement. This is all I have. I'm sorry, I get emotional, but it's just, it's not fair," Parker said.

Parker is among dozens of people expressing their feelings to the Orange County Transportation Authority Board as it considers turning carpool lanes to toll lanes on the 405 Freeway between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa. Those toll lanes would stretch from State Route 78 to the 605 Freeway.

"We will fight it. We will not tolerate it," said Councilmember Margie Rice with the Westminster City Council.

Some residents say they worry the tolls will block off cities and hurt businesses. Others think it will shift traffic congestion onto city streets.

"We will have nothing but chaos at the county line," said Seal Beach Mayor Pro-tem Ellery Deaton.

Three alternatives are being studied. OCTA says whatever is chosen, one free lane will be built in each direction, and it will be paid for with the county's half-cent sales tax approved by voters.

The toll proposal would replace the carpool lane with two tolled express lanes. Having to pay again is upsetting for many.

"The freeway, I truly believe, is supposed to be free for everyone," said Westminster Mayor Tri Ta.

According to OCTA projections, a driver heading northbound during rush hour for the full stretch would pay a peak toll of $12.78. Southbound drivers would pay $6.11 to travel just over 13 miles.

The 405 is the busiest stretch of freeway in the country. Some locals say the congestion is hurting business.

"I'm willing to accept the alternative such as an extra lane or a paid lane," said Tom Nguyen, an Irvine businessman.

The board decided to hold off making any decision to give more time to answer questions - like where the toll money will go.

"You just don't impose it right from the get-go, saying we're going to inconvenience you for five years of construction, and by the way, you're going to have to pay to use those lanes," said John Moorlach, OCTA director.

The OCTA Board is scheduled to meet again Dec. 9.

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