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Aug. 24, 1998: Orange County Business Journal


No one likes sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Gridlock on our freeways and streets not only shortens tempers, but costs us tens of thousands of hours annually in lost productivity and time.

Fortunately, Orange County's public agencies, private developers, businesses and community groups had the foresight to develop a public and private partnership to address the serious transportation issues that run concurrent with good economic times and growth. In just over 20 years, for instance, Orange County's population will exceed 3.2 million people and we'll need at least 250,000 housing units just to keep pace!

So how has this public and private partnership kept Orange County moving? Here are a few brief examples:

Transportation Corridor Agencies: TCA has become one of Orange County's greatest success stories. TCA implemented the concept of design/build construction with a unique public/private partnership approach. TCA, for example, uses a consortium of private firms to oversee the design/build portion of the various toll roads. This resulted in completing the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor under budget and three months ahead of schedule. The 18-mile stretch of the Eastern Toll Road from the Riverside Freeway to the I-5 Freeway at SR 133 in Irvine is slated to open in October, a year ahead of schedule. When the Eastern Toll Road opens, commutes between SR-91 and the Irvine Spectrum will be slashed about 30 minutes. The final 6.6-mile portion of the road that branches off in Orange and merges with Jamboree Road south of I-5 opens in January 1999, also about a year ahead of schedule.

'Smart Streets': This is one of the many projects funded through the Orange County Transportation Authority's Measure 'M,' a half-cent sales transportation tax passed by Orange County voters in 1990. Smart Streets are still a relatively new concept but within the next 10 years, will be ubiquitous not only in Orange County, but statewide. The City of Yorba Linda was one of the first cities in the county to develop it. In brief, a Smart Street is a major surface street improved to provide smooth, efficient traffic flow. The 'Smart Street' concept includes traffic signal coordination; roadway widening/striping; raised medians; bus turnouts; and on-street parking restrictions. Yorba Linda's Smart Street program, when completed, is expected to reduce vehicle delays, number of stops, fuel consumption and emissions.

Metrolink: Since it was launched almost six years ago, Metrolink has been adding passengers at a rapid clip. The $218 million, 87-mile Orange County Line, which parallels I-5 from Oceanside to Los Angeles, is averaging more than 6,000 riders each day; the goal is to double daily ridership by 2010.

These are just a few examples. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), District 12, has embarked on an ambitious 20-year program that concentrates on using our existing transportation system and enhancing various arterial streets so both communities and the local economy will benefit. Caltrans is responsible for overseeing state highway projects in the county, High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) facilities, public toll roads and privatization corridors. Caltrans is also completing a Seismic Retrofit Program for the county and implementing a traveler information network utilizing Intelligent Vehicle System (ITS) technologies.

Thanks also to a recent infusion of state and federal funds, Orange County is the beneficiary of a wide variety of transportation-related projects that will improve the area's infrastructure. The California Transportation Commission (CTC), for example, approved more than $300 million in funding for nine major county transportation projects. The largest of these is the $100.9 million widening of SR 55 between SR 22 and SR 91 freeways. The project adds one lane in each direction; construction kicks off during the first quarter of 1999.

Congress also approved $4 million in next year's Federal Appropriations Bill for the Orange County Rail Project. The funds are being used by OCTA to determine rail routes, locations for rail stations and identify the technology needed to serve a 28-mile long, six-mile wide corridor between Fullerton and Irvine.

This is just a small snapshot of what is in development. And the bottom-line? All of these projects will keep Orange County moving!

Return to: 1998 Feature Stories