HOT LANES:CA-57 HOT Lanes Off
By Peter Samuel
The preliminary financial feasibility work shows that tolls on single (SOVs) and 2-occupant vehicles (HOV2s) in the 2x2 HOT lanes on CA-57 would support between $250m and $300m of the capital cost of upgrades on CA-57 to build the improvement. Capital costs are estimated at $392m to full Caltrans standards and $295m for some compromises where widening is especially expensive. Tolling only SOVs, allowing HOV2s free rides, by contrast, would only yield a 30-year toll revenue stream sufficient to fund $50m of capital works. No toll-only analysis is presented.
CA-57 between the Orange Crush IC at I-15 and the Los Angeles county line is presently 16km (10mi) of 10-lane freeway with the inner lanes striped off for HOV2 carpools. It has 10 interchanges including direct connector ramps at CA-91 and I-5 and in some places the accel/decel lanes are continuous between ICs producing auxiliary lanes.
The options studied involved addition of a managed lane in each direction which, together with use of the existing HOV lanes, would provide a central 2x2-lane facility separated from the unrestricted 4-lane roadways (carriageways) on either side by crushable pylons or delineators set in a 1.2m (4') wide buffered area, making up a
4/2/2/4 roadway configuration similar to the 91X. There would be toll verification zones where the managed lanes would widen from 2-lanes to 3-lanes to allow eligible free HOVs to be separated from toll-paying vehicles with transponders.
Daily traffic is presently an average 185k veh/day with little directionality in the peaks and is expected to grow by about a third to 250k veh/day by 2020. (At that point it would be running about the same daily traffic flows as CA-91 is now.)
The CA-57 study was decided upon Nov 1997 after OCTA decided not to implement HOT lanes on CA-91 from west of the 91X project at CA-55 to the Los Angeles co line. Straight HOV lanes have since been built on CA-91 instead, for a 4/1/1/4 configuration. They opened in stages beginning Sept 99. OCTA said they lacked legal authority for the tolling and wanted to proceed quickly with the straight HOV.
In Feb 99 Parsons Transp Group began the study of CA-57 which has proceeded through the first phase at a cost of $138k. The recommendation of OCTA staff is that action be deferred on the HOT-lane facility on CA-57 in favor of some more modest improvements with auxiliary lanes.
The staff memo says there are several engineering challenges but: Of primary note is the termini treatment at the southern end of CA-57. Limited capacity in this area will not adequately accommodate added demand without causing increased traffic queues in the CA-57/I-5/CA-22 (Orange Crush) interchange (IC) area. Presently the CA-57 to I-5 branch connector (of the IC) operates at LOS-F in peak travel periods. Added demand will only serve to overload this area and exacerbate this condition. If, in the future, downstream capacity is added, for example, if the CA-57 is extended to I-405, the system could more readily accommodate any increase in traffic volumes.
Santa Ana River Expressway
The memo does not explicitly mention it, but a CA-57/South Extension franchise is held by American Transportation Development (ATD) LLC, a joint venture of Interwest Company and Morrison Knudsen (MK). This is an attempt to revive a dormant franchise awarded by Caltrans to a Perot group sub in 1991 under the set of four AB680 investor toll concessions which included 91X and the CA-125/South in San Diego, as well as an abandoned East Bay project in northern Calif. The CA-57/South project has also been called the Santa Ana River Expressway. (TRnl#41 July/Aug 99 p21)
On Oct 1 last year Caltrans agreed to the assignment of the Perot franchise to ATD, which is led by Robert Farris of Interwest. Interwest has the Greenville Connector toll road in SC under construction and got close to building toll roads in Minneapolis MN and Phoenix AZ. On the southwest fringe of Minneapolis Highway 212 was vetoed by the town of Eden Prairie in the fall of 1996 (TRnl#8, Oct 96 p4) though other jurisdictions favored it. Interwest took the initiative to pull the plug on its South Mountain toll road proposal in Phoenix AZ in 1998, deciding it was not financable.
Farris was Federal Highway Administrator under Pres Bush. He believes in using the 6320 not-for-profit corporate form for owning and operating toll roads under local government supervision to enable tax-exempt bonds to be sold. Farris sees the investor role as being in the development phase of toll roads. MK was involved in developing a similar project, the 895-Connector toll bridge/road now under construction in Richmond VA. Both are $300m to $400m projects. The Richmond VA road will only have investor participation up to the point of completion of the project when its operations will be turned over to VDOT who will conduct tolling and other operations.
The CA-57/South Extension would be a 2x2-lane (expandable to 2x3-lane) roadway 11km (7mi) long and elevated over the concreted floodway channel of the Santa Ana River as far south as I-405.
At the northern end, there would be ramps with CA-57 and I-5, bypassing the tangle of the complex 5-freeway legs plus local connectors of the Orange Crush IC. Along the elevated section over the floodway there would be intermediate interchanges with City Drive in Orange, and First St and Warner Av in Santa Ana. Then there would be connections to I-405, a west-only ramp to Garfield Av Huntington Beach to the south, and a further 6km (4mi) of lanes southeast alongside I-405 to avoid I-405 congestion and allow direct connections to CA-73 in Newport Beach. CA-73 becomes the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road operated by TCA.
At the northern end of this project are the Anaheim Stadium and Disneyland, and at the southern end the South Coast Plaza, John Wayne Airport and UC Irvine.
Farris has said the tolling on CA-57/South would probably be all-electronic and express like 91X with Fastrak statewide-interoperable transponders. Also like 91X it would exclude heavy trucks and pitch itself as a comfortable cars-only roadway. He said they would conform with the tolling practices of adjoining toll roads and could well use time-of-day variable pricing. On CA-73 (San Joaquin Hills TR) at the southern end flat rate tolls are presently used, but there are plans for a peak/off-peak differential. CA-57/South and HOT lanes on CA-57 would in part be a bridge between 91X and the SJ Hills toll road.
ATD said in July it hoped for a go/no-go decision in Sept. On Nov 16 Farris said ATD hoped to make an announcement shortly on the feasibility of financing the project. The furore over CPTCs non-profit financing efforts for the 91X lanes cast a political pall over the CA-57/S project.
VP for Finance at ATD, Grant Holland told us as we go to press that the group is still actively pursuing the project: Were problem solvers. You solve one problem but often you then discover a new problem, so it often takes longer than you anticipate. Were still actively working at this.
Some critics of OCTA say that a factor in its deferral of the CA-57 HOT lanes project is a north-south light rail project parallel to it to which the authority gives funding priority though on past ridership it would be unlikely to have any measurable impact on road traffic.
Given that the HOT lanes have been put aside because of congestion problems at the south end, progress by ATD on the CA-57/South extension could see it revived. But if the CA-57/South extension dies, it seems likely that pricing on the CA-57 proper HOT lanes will die too. The two projects seem inextricably linked. (Contacts OCTA 714 560 5570, Jon Green PTG 949 263 9322, G. Holland/R/Farris ATD 602 852 3929)