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SCV toll lane project could be publicly financed

Use fees would still be collected but wouldn’t be used to repay developers for construction

Posted: April 16, 2014 5:31 p.m.
Updated: April 16, 2014 5:31 p.m.

With the economy continuing to improve, transportation officials are examining a change in the way they plan to finance a project that will build two new toll carpool lanes on Interstate 5 through the Santa Clarita Valley.

Officials are now looking at publicly financing the project, according to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

This means the new lanes would still be toll lanes but the cost of construction would be covered by public funds, rather than a developer, according to Paul Gonzales, a spokesman for Metro.

“With the improving economy, Metro is in much better shape regarding Measure R,” he said Wednesday. “So it makes more financial sense to go in the market and finance it that way rather than paying off a developer to build it.”

Measure R is a half-cent sales tax used for transportation programs and projects around Los Angeles County.

The original funding mechanism for the project — which would build 13.5-mile carpool lanes on the I-5 in both directions from Parker Road in Castaic to the junction with Highway 14 — was presented as a public-private partnership.

Such a partnership would mean that a private firm, or firms, would have fronted the construction costs of the project and then been repaid in part using tolls collected from drivers using the lanes.

Publicly financing the project is a viable alternative, officials say, because it takes advantage of $352 million available through Measure R and other funds.

“With the improving economy there’s a lot more half-cents being paid,” Gonzales said.

An additional $175 million in funding for the project could come from a federal loan, Gonzales said.

Metro officials originally said the public-private partnership was a way to speed up construction of the project.

The Metro board will vote on the matter at a later date.

Under the Metro proposal, vehicles with one occupant would be subject to a toll at all times when using the carpool lanes, while vehicles with two occupants would pay the toll during peak hours.

Vehicles with three or more passengers would not be subject to a toll. Buses, motorcycles and van pools would also be able to use the lanes for free, according to information from Metro.

In return, the lanes would be managed so that drivers will not go slower than 45 mph.

Toll amounts for the tolls have not been set. However, the tolls for current Metro Express lanes range from about 25 cents per mile and $1.40 per mile.

Toll revenues would be used for traffic operations and transit services in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to Metro officials.

The current forecast calls for the lanes to be open in 2021, according to Metro officials.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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