For Goodness’ Sake, Stop Widening the 405

Albert Einstein says that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I have bad news for transportation planners at OCTA and Caltrans. You’ve gone insane. And the disease is spreading.

http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm100.htm
It’s common knowledge that freeway widenings accomplish little besides encouraging sprawl and increasing driving, yet OCTA, Caltrans and Metro want to do it.

The Orange County Transportation Authority and Caltrans are banding together for another 1950’s style environmental disaster, widening the 405 between the 605 and the 73. The massive expansion project would add two lanes in each direction from Costa Mesa to Long Beach, an addition of over 80 miles of highway lanes. One of the lanes in each direction would be a toll lane. The project’s total cost is only $1.7 billion.

And this isn’t just insanity, it is also schizophrenia. After all, Caltrans’ Strategic Management Plan calls for ending road widening projects even as the branch office wants to triple down on massive 405 expansions from Orange County through the Sepulveda Pass.

KPCC reports that the City of Long Beach, frustrated with the low amount of mitigation funds being offered for a massive freeway widening planned for the 405 that will dump thousands of new cars on local roads, is planning a lawsuit.

The bad news is the reason why:

Sanchez said Long Beach would like for Orange County to slow down the expansion project to give Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority time to come up with a similar expansion of the 405 on the L.A. side.

The MTA is reviewing a feasibility study that could add one or two lanes to a five-mile stretch of the 405 in Long Beach, between the I-605 interchange north to Cherry Avenue. But that project is in the early stages, MTA officials said.

Oh, for the love of…

That’s right, 405-widening insanity isn’t contained in Orange County. Despite the ongoing public relations disaster of its most recent 405 widening, Metro is back for more. Its most recent unpopular proposal is a four-lane widening to connect the OCTA’s all-but-certain widening and the recently completed Sepulveda Pass widening that created more traffic during construction than it “saved” after it was built.

Even the politics-free L.A. Magazine is laughing at the idea that a widening will improve traffic. And L.A. Weekly has been running an ongoing series on the folly of the Sepulveda Pass widening for nearly a decade.

So naturally, every highway planning agency in the southern portion of the state thinks we should widen the 405 again. At least this time, they’re taking into account induced demand, the idea that widening highways creates more traffic. In fact, they’re counting on it.

Again, from KPCC:

About 370,000 cars travel on between Costa Mesa and Long Beach on I-405 every day, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority. The freeway is routinely listed as among the busiest and most congested in the nation.

The widening project is expected to increase traffic on the freeway by 23 percent in both directions. Construction is expected to start in 2018.

It’s good that Long Beach is looking to protect its local street grid as best it can. And it’s possible that the city is playing a high-stakes game of chess to try and force the two widenings to undergo one environmental review, but that’s a risky game. Wouldn’t it just be easier if we just all agreed that another 405 widening is a bad idea? Even Caltrans, at least at the headquarters in Sacramento, seems to understand.

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