L.A. County set to build its first new freeway in 25 years, despite many misgivings


When the Century Freeway opened in 1993, officials said it would almost certainly be the last of the great Southern California freeways, the final chapter in a romance with fast lanes that began just before World War II.

It offered a good example of why the ardor faded. The 105 violated environmental laws, displaced more than 25,000 people and left behind a legacy of noise and pollution in some of Los Angeles County’s poorest neighborhoods. After decades of delays and bitter litigation, its price tag rose to $2.2 billion, making it the most expensive roadway ever built in the United States.

But now, with little fanfare, officials are again laying the groundwork for the construction of a new freeway.

The California Department of Transportation, in cooperation with a joint powers authority, will in June begin buying land to build a 63-mile high desert freeway connecting the Los Angeles County communities of Palmdale and Lancaster with the San Bernardino County communities of Victorville, Apple Valley and Adelanto.

Officials say the $8-billion project north of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains would relieve anticipated traffic congestion in the fast-growing region by creating a link between State Route 14 and Interstate 15, and reduce gridlock on Los Angeles-area roads including the 210, 10 and 60 freeways.

But like its predecessor, it’s already raising questions about its environmental toll, impact on communities and funding.

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