The plans for SR-55
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) are working on the new alternative to add more lanes to their plan to expand SR-55 between I-405 and I-5, including:
- Additional merge lanes (auxiliary lanes)
- One new lane in both directions
- One high-occupancy lane in both directions
This new alternative would minimize property acquisitions by reducing the standard shoulder and lane widths.
Who could be affected
Property owners and businesses along the freeway may face eminent domain actions against their property. When the government acquires property for public projects, it may decide not to take the property in full. Many times, only a portion of the property is required. In those cases, the government may attempt to purchase the portions outright or obtain easements.
An easement is a right to use someone else’s land without possessing it. There are a number of reasons why the government might obtain an easement to private property, ranging from the need to use someone’s property for construction on adjacent land (a temporary easement for construction) to a permanent easement to give the government right-of-way access through a property (such as for a utility line, or, in this case, street widening). If you own mineral, water or other below-ground rights to your land, the government may only take the above-ground portion. This is different from acquiring the property in “fee simple,” which would indicate that the government is taking the entire property, including all mineral and gas rights.
In any of the above cases, it is in your best interests to speak with a lawyer. A temporary easement for construction, for example, could reduce your business’ profitability or affect your use of the property. There may be options to recover some of the lost value beyond the rental rate the government typically pays. Similarly, if the government takes a portion of your property, you may be entitled to compensation for the value of the property it is taking plus the damages your remaining property suffers as a result (these are called severance damages).
What property owners can do
Now is the time to start considering your options. The OCTA is using its team of experts to protect and further its own interests. It is only prudent for you to do the same.
If you believe you will be affected by the OCTA’s plans, speak with an eminent domain lawyer as soon as possible to learn about your rights as a property owner.