California lawmaker wants to turn I-5 and SR 99 into the Autobahn

February 22, 2019

Tyson Fisher


If one California lawmaker gets his way, motorists on Interstate 5 and state Route 99 may get the needle on their vehicle’s speedometer all the way to the right side. A bill introduced on Feb. 15 calls for additional lanes on the highways that have no maximum speed limits.

On Feb. 15, Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, introduced a bill that suggests an alternative to the struggling high-speed rail project that was approved to address the effect of congestion on greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than take cars off the road, get them from Point A to Point B at breakneck speeds.

Senate Bill 319 “would require the (Department of Transportation) to initiate a project to construct two additional traffic lanes on northbound and southbound Interstate Route 5 and State Route 99, and would prohibit the imposition of a maximum speed limit for those traffic lanes.”

According to the bill, the High-Speed Rail Authority was formed in 1996 to address the increasing strain placed on California’s highways as the population grew rapidly. The increase in traffic damaged roadways and added to congestion.

In November, the state auditor released a report that revealed that the authority has secured nearly $13 billion of the estimated $77.3 billion needed for the high-speed rail system. The system is expected to be completed in 2033. However, the report found problems with planning, contract management, policy enforcement and goal monitoring, according to Moorlach’s bill.

One of the goals of the high-speed rail is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases caused by vehicles by way of decreasing traffic congestion. Ironically, Moorlach’s search for a viable alternative for “high-speed, unabated transportation across the state,” includes adding to the source of those issues.

SB319 calls for two additional lanes on northbound and southbound I-5 and SR 99. Moorlach’s bill also will amend traffic laws that allow motorists to drive no faster than 65 mph. Current law also guarantees stiff penalties for driving in excess of 100 mph. SB319 will exempt the new lanes from both of those laws, effectively making them similar to Germany’s Autobahn.

In a news release, Moorlach cites a World Health Organization study that estimated road traffic deaths per 100,000 people is 4.1 in Germany, while 12.4 in the United States.

“If Sacramento is serious about allowing Californians to travel between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and high-speed rRail will take too long to build, let’s construct four additional lanes with no maximum speed limit to provide for high speed on a safe road,” Moorlach said in a statement.

Funding would come from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which allocates 35 percent of annual proceeds for transit, affordable housing and sustainable communities. Another 25 percent is set aside for parts of the high-speed rail project. The bill would allocate an unspecified amount for the speed limitless lanes.