In response to protests from the San Fernando Valley, state highway officials said Friday that they will petition a state commission to drop a diamond-lane-only provision attached to the approaching widening of the Ventura Freeway.
The California Transportation Commission, which controls all highway spending in the state, approved two new lanes for the freeway in 1984 on the condition that one eastbound lane be restricted to car pools and buses.
The $5-million, 13-mile widening would add one lane in each direction from the Hollywood Freeway to Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
A 68-member advisory committee was recently formed by the Department of Transportation to decide whether to open the new eastbound lane to all vehicles or to make it a diamond lane, restricted to car pools and buses.
But committee members became angry when they learned of the diamond-lane-only stipulation.
Several Valley legislators pledged to lobby in Sacramento to remove the provision.
Warns of Possible Delay
David Roper, deputy director for Caltrans' Southern California District, warned the committee that asking the commission to drop the stipulation may cause a delay or cancellation of the project if there is an "overreaction" by commissioners.
And Allan Hendrix, Caltrans' liaison to the commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, said there would be a "distinct risk of being turned down when you reapply."
He said many other areas of the state have high-priority projects for which local officials would be willing to accept a diamond lane.
But Hendrix said Friday that, after consulting commission staff members, Caltrans had determined that the risk is "probably not as great as we had thought.
"We have concluded there is a good chance there would be a favorable reaction," Hendrix said.
He said that, if commissioners react in a hostile manner to the petition at their June 25-26 meeting, "I think we can withdraw the request and proceed as before."
Roger Stannard, a Woodland Hills attorney who heads the advisory committee, said that letting his group decide whether there should be a diamond lane "would be a demonstration of good faith in the committee's work."
He declined to predict what the committee will decide if the commission gives it the option.