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Metro committee approves I-5 toll lanes in SCV

Posted: April 17, 2013 5:44 p.m.
Updated: April 17, 2013 5:44 p.m.

A plan to build two new Interstate 5 carpool lanes using tolls to help with construction costs took a step toward reality Wednesday with a vote of a Metro committee.

Members of the Planning and Programming Committee for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted unanimously to approve the concept and file the environmental impact report for the project, according to Chris Margaronis, the project’s manager.

As proposed, the project would add two new 13.5-mile carpool lanes through the Santa Clarita Valley from Parker Road in Castaic to the I-5 junction with Highway 14, one in each direction.

The project now heads to the Metro Board of Directors and will likely be on the agenda of the board’s meeting April 25, Margaronis said.

“This item is important in the process to continue the consideration of a public-private partnership as an option to deliver this project in 2019 instead of after 2040,” Margaronis said Wednesday.

Metro officials have proposed a private-public partnership to fund the lanes’ construction. A private company would assume the up-front cost and be repaid over time with a combination of sales tax revenues and tolls that would be assessed on a per-mile basis.

Such a partnership would move the expected completion date for the project from 2040 to 2019, Margaronis said.
The carpool lanes would not exclude single-occupant vehicles, but a person driving alone would be subject to the per-mile toll at all times, and a car with fewer than three people would be subject to the toll during peak travel hours.

Cars with more than three people, motorcyclists, buses and van pools would be able to use the lanes at any time with no toll. Trucks would not be allowed in the lanes at all.

The proposal calls for a guarantee that traffic in the toll lanes does not drop below 45 mph, according to Metro officials.

Construction of the lanes is expected to cost approximately $410 million. Under the original proposal, $310 million in funding would come from Measure R and Proposition C sales-tax revenues from now until 2040, meaning the project would face a funding shortfall of at least $100 million, according to Margaronis.

Wednesday’s vote is a step in the overall project-review process. If it is approved by the Metro Board of Directors, the lane construction plan will be reviewed by the California Transportation Commission, likely in October, according to Margaronis.

A public hearing would also have to be held to determine how much to charge as a toll to use the lanes.
That toll hearing would likely be held before the end of the year, Margaronis said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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