65th District Assemblymember Young Kim has introduced a bill that would prohibit a controversial plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 405 without direct approval by voters. The move would prevent the addition of a toll lane to the freeway as part of Measure M2-funded improvements, which already include extra lanes in both directions on one of the most congested highways in the state. Arguing that Caltrans “does not have the legislative authority to own or operate toll lanes anywhere in the state,” and that no mention of tolls appeared in the ballot language for Measure M2, the half cent sales to fund transportation improvements, Ms. Kim introduced AB 1459, to require a two-thirds majority approval by voters before any “toll facility” could be built in Orange County.
The OC Register, who endorsed Young Kim for her seat last year, disagrees with her, contending that by transforming the existing carpool lane into one that still allows carpools but also allows single driver vehicles to use it for a fee, freeway traffic will move faster. The Register even acknowledges that the scheme smacks of double taxation, except that “use of these lanes would be entirely voluntary.”
Like her predecessor, Sharon Quirk-Silva, Young Kim sits on the Assembly Transportation Committee. Sharon Quirk-Silva supporter Vern Nelson over at the Orange Juice blog recently recalled that last year Ms. Quirk-Silva and fellow Democrat Tom Daly both allowed a similar bill penned by Allan Monsoor to “quietly die in committee last year by boldly abstaining (so as not to piss off the dread Teamsters and Building Trades who see toll lanes as a makework slush fund.)”
What’s a Republican to do when a left-wing blog supports her bill but the right-wing county newspaper doesn’t?
Here is one suggestion: Instead of rearranging the deck chairs on our Titanically dysfunctional freeway system, why not focus on long term solutions that include mass transit? If we can devote $15.8 billion to widening freeways, why can’t we upgrade our bus system to optimum functionality, and add bike infrastructure to get more drivers off of the road in the first place?
Sharon Quirk-Silva will host a fundraiser next week to kick off her bid to reclaim the 65th Assembly seat in 2016. The Rag challenges both candidates to identify ways to fund mass transit for commuters, instead of arguing over how to spend money to alleviate perennially congested automobile traffic.