With the completion of the I-5 widening project in Orange County north to the Orange County-Los Angeles County line, motorists cruised along the new, spacious lanes until they hit the County line, at which point an abrupt bottleneck brought them to a halt. Now, the I-5 widening has commenced again, as the project moves north into Los Angeles.
Across the county, the other major freeway connecting Orange and Los Angeles Counties, Interstate 405, could face a similar future. The Orange County Transporation Authority has plans to widen the 405 freeway north from the 73 freeway to the LA County line. Los Angeles, on the other hand, has no plans to widen the 405 north of the County line.
L.A. has focused its transportation money on opening new rail lines: the Gold Line Eastside extension, which opened over the weekend, and the Expo Line from downtown to Culver City, which is under construction. Orange County doesn't have light rail and has focused its resources largely on improving freeways and surface streets.
This philosophical difference may make perfect sense, given the different population densities and demographics between the counties. Even if each county's priority makes sense internally, however, trouble can result at the county line if the counties do not coordinate their efforts.
What will actually happen remains to be seen. It does not appear that Orange County's plans are imminent, and the overall funding crisis facing Californa leads one to wonder how long it will be before the County could tackle a project of that magnitiude.
If the project ever does move forward, we can only hope that the two counties will find a way to resolve their philosophical differences so we don't end up with a permanent bottleneck on the 405 to match the (hopefully) temporary conditions on the I-5, where the widening process continues.
Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues. His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes. His public ...
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