The Other Side of Measure R, Highway Projects Getting Ready to Roll

While much of the Measure R talk these days is about the Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes or the Westside Subway meetings, the non-progressive portion of the "transit sales tax" is also moving forward.  This month's meeting of the Metro Board's "Measure R Project Delivery Committee" is dominated by talk of highway expansion.

The first agenda item concerns the widening of SR-138 from two lanes to four lanes.  For those unfamiliar with this road, it currently is a two-lane road that travels 26 miles and connects the area surrounding Palmdale and Lancaster to the Inland Empire.  As Southern California sprawls, the road has become a commuter road and, of course, government needs to step in to support people's decisions to live far away from where they work.  Thus, this quaint two-lane road is going to get the highway treatment and capacity will double as the road widens from two to four lanes.  A large portion of the highway that lies outside of L.A. County has already been widened.

Laughably, safety is an issue given in the report for the widening.  If you've been reading this story and trying to figure out why SR-138 sounds familiar and aren't someone who would use it; it could be because in 2007 the road had to be closed because drivers, in a fit of road rage, were hurling bottles at construction workers working to widen the road to expedite the commute.  That's right, drivers were assaulting the people trying to give them a faster commute.

These are just the sort of drivers who need faster commute times for safety's sake.

Another road project moving forward is a study to fix the congestion "hot spots" on the I-605.  The 605 is a 27 mile highway which is four lanes or more in all parts and travels from Long Beach to El Monte through East L.A.  At the least, Metro will construct "interchange improvements" for the road, but is also looking at places where smaller investements could alleviate a lot of congestion.  How would they do this?  The report makes the strategy clear:

The initial alternatives for congestion "Hot Spots"will include improvements to freeway to freeway interchanges, additional general purpose lanes, and arterial improvements.

In other words, "capacity expansion."  Got it.

The third report lists a series of highway projects, funded by Measure R, that staff is currently working on creating a "Memorandum of Understanding."  This document, signed by all the stakeholders, outlines what each agency's role in the project will be and is a necessary step before a project can get underway.  Both the expansion projects for the 138 and 605 are on the list.

As Metro moves forward with its transit expansion projects, advocates and activists should remember that these shiny new rail projects come at a cost beyond the half cent sales tax.  After all, none of these half-dozen road projects would have the needed funding without the boost they received from Measure R.  It's up to everyone to make certain that Metro moves projects that are worth that price.