Caltrans has quietly revived plans to widen or even double-deck the San Diego Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass, although outrage from San Fernando Valley residents may again force the agency to back down from a mammoth highway that would tower over homes. Department of Transportation officials say they’ve heard plenty of objections so are refocusing on less controversial alternatives – possibly a car-pool lane like the one between the Westside and the Valley that got fast-tracked this summer after local leaders won $130 million in federal funds. “There was a lot of negative comments about the double-decking. My thought is, relatively soon, we’ll be putting that one to bed,” said Ron Kosinski, deputy district director for Caltrans. “We’re certainly listening to the public out there. They’ve given us a lot of ideas.” But residents remain poised for a showdown over the 405 Freeway, much like the battle that erupted two years ago, when Caltrans proposed expanding the Ventura Freeway. But Caltrans resurrected the 405 proposal last summer after Congress approved $130 million for the northbound car-pool lane, jump-starting the $500 million project that otherwise wouldn’t have been built for more than a decade. Kosinski said the state wanted to look at other alternatives for improving traffic on the 405 as it was drawing up the planning documents for the car-pool lane. “The money that was secured was for the car-pool lanes, and so obviously that’s going to be a local preference, but we have to look at the range of alternatives.” The various alternatives would require condemning private property along the freeway, and would likely cost well into the billions of dollars, though Caltrans could not immediately provide a price estimate. But Caltrans got an earful from residents of homes in the Sepulveda Pass once the 405 expansion options surfaced. Residents generally support the northbound car-pool lane that would provide an obvious partner to the southbound high occupancy vehicle lane that has cut commuting time for car poolers. But residents overwhelmingly oppose any plans to build a massive freeway that require the use of eminent domain to acquire land through some of Los Angeles’ tonier neighborhoods – much the way they fought the condemnation of land to widen the 101. Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, points out that his group was founded more than 40 years ago when the freeway was first built through the pass. “Although we are 150 percent in support of adding the car-pool lane, we think that any idea of double-decking or drastically widening the freeway should not even be considered,” said Close, who had advocated for the car-pool lane funds in summer. “It would impact adversely too many homes and residents and businesses.” Westside residents are also beginning to monitor the project. Lori Fontanes, board member of the Westwood Hills Property Owners Association, said the group is not opposed to the the car-pool lane so long as no private property is condemned. It has no position yet on the widening or double-decking proposals. An aide to Rep. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys, who led the successful campaign in Congress to bring home $130 million for the 405, notes that the funding approved by Congress can be spent only for the car-pool lane. Councilman Jack Weiss wants to make sure residents are protected. “We support the improvements to the 405 and we plan to work very closely with Caltrans to protect our neighbors,” said his chief of staff, Denise Sample. Kosinski said the outpouring of opposition has led Caltrans to focus on building a car-pool lane and possibly adding some mass transit options – like bus-only connector ramps from major streets to the HOV lanes. Even with community support, the northbound car-pool lane faces its own uphill battle in the state, as officials figure out how to fully fund the project, which faces a $270 million shortfall, and get it built before the federal 2009 deadline. Kosinski said the state hopes to have the planning documents finished within the next year to be put out for public review. “We want to look at … lower-cost, lower-impact alternatives,” he said. “What does that leave you to? Hopefully that leaves you to car-pool lanes.” Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “I’m in the process of organizing the residents along this corridor just like we did on the 101 and forming a consensus,” said Gerry Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino. “We oppose double-decking or widening of the 405, but we are not opposed to other significant improvements that would improve traffic flow.” Even more, residents are angry and frustrated at the way the 405 plans quietly resurfaced last month. “It’s either on the table or it’s not,” Silver said. “If it’s on the table, then let them tell us what they exactly (are) looking to do, flesh it out. … Or take it off the table and just deal with the more realistic things.” Caltrans introduced the idea of double-decking the 405 during public meetings in 2003 – about the same time as the debate over the 101 – then shelved the plan when the state budget crisis deepened and billions of dollars were transferred from transportation accounts to the state general fund.