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Metro board approves toll lane project

Posted: April 25, 2013 6:20 p.m.
Updated: April 25, 2013 6:20 p.m.

Los Angeles County’s top transportation agency approved toll carpool lanes Thursday for Interstate 5 through the Santa Clarita Valley.

If the state agrees with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s unanimous vote, Santa Clarita Valley residents would have a new carpool lane in each direction from Parker Road in Castaic to the I-5-Highway 14 interchange in Newhall Pass — for a toll.

While the exact magnitude of the tolls would be determined at a hearing later this year, 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, according to the project proposal.

Metro members agreed to join in a private-public partnership to build the lanes and use tolls as a way of recouping the costs of the estimated $410 million project.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich is the chairman of the Metro board but did not vote on the proposal Thursday, according to spokesman Tony Bell.

Bell said Antonovich was “conflicted” on the proposal.

The project will now be presented to the California Transportation Commission, which is expected to weigh in on the matter in the fall, said Lan Saadatnejadi, the executive officer of Metro’s highway program.

“For a complicated project like this, we’re doing everything possible to see that this project moves through,” Saadatnejadi said Thursday.

Under the proposed private-public partnership, an independent company would assume the upfront costs of constructing the lanes and be reimbursed through a combination of collected tolls and tax revenues from Proposition C and Measure R that are earmarked for transportation.

Under the proposal, two new 13.5-mile carpool lanes, one in each direction, would be built from Castaic to the I-5 junction with Highway 14.

Even if the Transportation Committee approves the project, actually securing such a partnership is likely 12 to 18 months away, Saadatnejadi said. From there, construction on the project would take an additional three to five years.

An estimated $310 million in funding for the project was initially slated to come from Proposition C and Measure R tax revenues, but those funds wouldn’t be fully paid out until 2040 and would face an estimated $100 million shortfall.

Using the private-public partnership would move the estimated completion date up as early as 2019, Saadatnejadi said.

Tolls on existing Metro Express lanes in Southern California range between 25 cents and $1.40 per mile.

Trucks would not be allowed to use the lanes, while cars with more than three people, buses, van pools and motorcycles would be able to use the lanes free of charge.

In return for the tolls, the proposal calls for a guarantee that traffic in the lanes does not drop below 45 mph, according to Metro officials.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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