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.