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L.A. County considers toll charges on two freeways

June 8, 2009 | 11:26 am

Los Angeles County transportation officials are considering charging solo motorists 25 cents to $1.40 a mile to use the high occupancy toll lanes proposed for the Harbor and San Bernardino freeways.

Like other tollways in Southern California, officials plan to use congestion-based pricing, which means that tolls will rise and fall in direct relation with the flow of traffic — a formula designed to keep individual motorists, carpools, van pools and buses in the high occupancy lanes at a minimum of 45 mph, even during rush hour.

Under the proposed pricing schedule, 25 cents a mile would be charged when demand is lowest for the lanes, while the maximum, $1.40 a mile, would be the toll during the busiest part of the day.

“The project should go a long way to relieving congestion in the region on two of our more congested freeways,” said Caltrans District Director Douglas Failing, who announced the proposed tolls and other developments in the project at a news conference today.

Before the toll schedule is finalized in late July, the public will be allowed to comment on the prices at  five community hearings this month in Los Angeles, Torrance, Carson, El Monte and West Covina. The public also can submit written comments to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority by July 14. The MTA board is scheduled to set the tolls July 23.

The yearlong demonstration project has received $210.6 million in federal funds to help reduce traffic and improve bus service along the two freeways -- the largest congestion-easing grant awarded to any city to date, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Caltrans and the MTA will use the money to convert existing carpool lanes to high-occupancy toll lanes on 14 miles of the San Bernardino Freeway from Alameda Street to the 605 Freeway interchange and on 11 miles of the Harbor Freeway from Adams Boulevard to the Artesia Transit Center at 182nd Street.

A second high-occupancy toll lane will be added in both directions to the San Bernardino Freeway. The project also calls for automated toll plazas, road improvements and additional transit services, including 57 clean-fuel buses for both freeway corridors. The entire project is expected to be completed by December 2010.

--Dan Weikel in Eagle Rock