When California began building its freeway network after World War II to connect its booming suburbs, the expectation was that drivers would be able to use them to speedily bypass traffic lights, pedestrians and increasingly congested city streets.
And while not expressly stated, the flowing concrete ribbons would be unlike the toll roads in the East: That is, these roadways would be free.
But that was long before those freeways became congested with bumper-to-bumper traffic, making for miserable commutes and perpetually smoggy skies.
Now, California is expanding toll lanes on freeways like never before, not just to raise revenue for transportation projects but to change behavior as well.
Toll lanes are in the works along the 405 Freeway in Orange County, the 15 Freeway in Riverside County and Interstate 880 in Alameda County.
Orange County is considering a huge expansion of toll lanes, eyeing the 55, 57 and 91 freeways as possibilities. Darrell E. Johnson, head of the Orange County Transportation Authority, said the plan is part of a decades-long, $43-billion investment in the county’s transportation network.
L.A. County officials are even considering adding toll lanes to the 405 in the congested Sepulveda Pass, and later, on the 105 and 605 freeways. Another proposal would add toll lanes to the 5 Freeway between Red Hill Avenue and the L.A. County line, costing $223 million to $779 million, according to Caltrans.