LA gets legislative OK to take NYC's $210m for dynamic priced lanes I-10, I-110

September 4, 2008
By Peter Samuel

California's legislators left it right up until the deadline but when they finally voted it was with clear majorities to go with tolling on the busiest carpool lanes in the LA area. They get around $210m of federal funds originally reserved for New York City central area pricing. To be tolled under the plan are carpool lanes in the center of the I-10 and the I-110. I-210 might be tolled too, but the legislation endorses a binding agreement by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) and USDOT to implement variable pricing on the principal east-west and north-south expressways in the Los Angeles area.

To get all-electronic tolling are:

- 27km (17 miles) of the I-110 Harbor Freeway south of central LA between I-405 and I-10, 2+2 lanes

- 23km (14 miles) of the I-10 west of central LA at Alameda St to the I-605, 1+1 lanes

HOV3 vehicles will continue to ride the lanes free but vehicles with one or two occupants will be tolled at the same rate, according to an agreement. Conversion from HOV2 to HOV3 can be phaded in on one of the facilities.

Also LACMTA agrees to use dynamic pricing to maintain free flow. The projects must be in revenue service by the end of 2010 at the latest.

This is 152 lane-km (94 lane-miles) to be tolled. The tolling will likely involve considerable reorganization of the lanes to provide defined entry and exit zones and enforcement and monitoring as well as the equipment mounts and dynamic signing.

The lanes will use the FasTrak electronic toll system in use everywhere in California. It will be only the second dynamic pricing in the state. I-15 north of San Diego was the pioneer.

The legislation SB1422 which was sponsored by Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas of District 26 immediately west of downtown LA passed the state assembly 64/11 with 6 non-votes and the state senate 30/7 with 3 non-votes.

The project faced strong opposition from the US Congressional delegation and Rep Gary Miller introduced legislation in the US Congress to bar implementation of the agreement. Miller represents constituents north of LA along the I-210 corridor so as a compromise the project was made optional for tolling I-210 but mandatory to toll I-110.

Initially it had been I-10 and I-210 mandatory and I-110 optional.

State Senator Jenny Oropeza (Dem, Long Beach) during a Senate debate expressed the standard objection to pricing: "This (plan) reflects a view that if you have money, you get to go in the fast lane and if you don't you are stuck in congestion."

[By Oropeza logic supermarkets should junk their checkout machines, not price their produce and become open warehouses, food producers and distributors being funded by a wholesale food tax and grants channeled through the House Food and Nutrition Committee under programs specified in the five yearly Safe Equitable and Healthy Nutrition Act (SAFEANHELA) which would generate an estimated 2,140 new jobs for lobbyists. And housing, why should it be priced so you get a better house with more money? It offers another opportunity for a federal initiative...]

Legislative blunder

One problem with the legislation: It misnames Interstate 110 as "State Highway Route 110." State Route 110 is the old Pasadena parkway north of central LA that doesn't meet interstate highway standards, whereas the intended HOT lanes are on Interstate 110 which is south of central LA. Californians typically refer to their expressway standard roads by their names or numbers without reference to whether they have interstate or state designation, though they do have quite distinctive signage.

Worth $780m

The agreement notes that the HOT lanes projects have a capital value of at least $780m, value estimated in terms of the investment capital they will service.

The $210m federal grant will support transit improvements that relieve congestion as well as the variable pricing lanes. If funds are available HOV lanes on I-210 will also be priced.

Anti-Downs manifesto

The Agreement contains a ringing refutation of the fatalistic Just-relax-&-live-with-congestion theme popularized in the 1990s by Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution:

"Transportation system congestion is one of the greatest threats to our Nation's economic prosperity and way of life. Whether it takes the form of trucks stalled in traffic, cargo stuck at overwhelmed seaports, or airplanes stuck on the tarmac, congestion costs the nation an estimated $200 billion each year.

"The problem of traffic congestion in our major metropolitan areas is severe an worsening. In 2005 traffic jams in the cities cost Americans 4.2b hours and 2.9b gallons of fuel.

"Congestion is also affecting the quality of life in America by robbing us of time that could be spent with families and friends and in participation in civic life.

"The signatories to this MOU do not believe that gridlock is our inevitable fate."

Copy of the USDOT-LACMTA agreement here.

TOLLROADSnews 2008-09-03 ADDITIONS 2008-09-04 12:30

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