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MTA considers more freeway toll lanes to reduce congestion

A preliminary study recommends that five locations be explored for installation of lanes that would allow solo motorists to pay to use them.

November 16, 2010|By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times

Advancing their experiment with toll roads, Los Angeles County transportation officials are considering more projects for local freeways — including a heavily congested freeway on the Westside — that would allow solo motorists to pay to use carpool lanes.

A preliminary study by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has recommended that five locations be explored in detail for the installation of high-occupancy toll lanes or so-called HOT lanes. The MTA's ad hoc congestion-pricing committee is set to discuss the matter Wednesday.

Officials said the highways that demonstrate a strong potential for conversion to HOT lanes include: The 105 Freeway between the 405 and the 605; the 405 from the 105 to the 5 in the San Fernando Valley; the 91 from the 110 Freeway to the Orange County line; the 57 from the 60 to the Orange County Line; and the 10 between the 605 and the San Bernardino County Line.

With motorists making up to 310,000 trips a day, the 405 from the 105 to the 5 is one of the busiest highways in the state.

"We had good timing for the study," said Stephanie Wiggins, the MTA's project manager for tollways. "The Southern California Assn. of Governments is doing a regionwide congestion-based-pricing study, and other counties are looking at potential projects."

Wiggins said if the ad hoc committee selects a route for further study the MTA would have to apply for federal funding to pay for construction because the agency has no money budgeted for it at this time.

The California Department of Transportation and the MTA are now converting existing carpool lanes to HOT lanes on 14 miles of the 10 from Alameda Street to the 605 and on 11 miles of the 110 from Adams Boulevard to the Artesia Transit Center at 182nd Street.

It is the county's first venture into congestion-based pricing — tolls that are set higher or lower in direct relation to the traffic volume. The MTA plan, however, would prohibit solo motorists from entering HOT lanes if the speed of traffic falls below 45 mph.

The demonstration project, which will be evaluated to see if congestion is indeed reduced, has received a $210.6-million federal grant. Some of the money will go to improving transit service along the 10 and 110, including the purchase of 57 clean-fuel buses. The project, which is estimated to cost $332 million, is expected to be completed in late 2012.

Charging solo motorists to use carpool lanes has been implemented in other states including Texas, Florida and Washington. In California, HOT lanes have been installed along the 15 Freeway in north San Diego County.

The Bay Area's first high-occupancy toll lanes opened in September along a 14-mile stretch of southbound Interstate 680 through Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

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