An environmental group announced Tuesday that it has taken the first step toward suing the state to force construction of a car-pool lane on the heavily congested Ventura Freeway in the San Fernando Valley and on about 60 other miles of Southern California freeways.
If successful, the suit by the Coalition for Clean Air could delay Ventura Freeway widening for a year or more, state Department of Transportation officials said.
Caltrans initially proposed a "diamond lane," restricted to car pools and buses, as part of the 101 Freeway widening project scheduled to begin early next year. But the lane was eliminated when opponents swamped the agency with more than 12,000 letters.
In a notice of intent to sue, the coalition contends that the federal Clean Air Act requires implementation of the 1979 Air Quality Management Plan for Southern California, which calls for 74 miles of diamond lanes.
Although a 1982 revision of the Air Quality Management Plan dropped the network of ride-sharing lanes, the revised plan was ruled invalid by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a coalition suit.