The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved enhancing South County’s regional mobility by implementing three major transportation projects during a Sept. 28 meeting.
The proposed agenda item—a cooperative agreement with the Orange County Transportation Authority and the city of San Clemente to assist with alleviating traffic—by Supervisor Lisa Bartlett was met with contention by her colleagues.
“South County is unique in that we don’t have the mobility patterns that we have in other parts of the county,” Bartlett said during the Sept. 28 meeting.
“We have one freeway, basically the I-405 that turns into I-5, and that’s pretty much it. In other parts of the county, you’ve got many more options. We have significant challenges in South County, and I’m laser-focused on putting together good projects that will help regional mobility and also enhance public safety.”
The project included the widening of Ortega Highway, the continuation of the HOV lane on I-5 from Avenida Pico to the county line in San Diego, and the extension of Los Patrones Parkway, which will create a non-toll county arterial from Cow Camp Road in Mission Viejo toward San Clemente.
According to Bartlett, a study conducted by the Transportation Corridor Agency indicated that regional traffic concerns can be solved through a three-pronged transportation solution.
“These three projects will take us well into the future, probably for the next 50 years for regional mobility in South County, we don’t need any other major projects,” Bartlett said. “These three projects … relieve a lot of the traffic on the residential streets and the streets throughout the cities. The traffic studies have proven that, so it’s not going to have an adverse impact to cities or neighborhoods.”
Despite the appeal that the projects bring to the county, Supervisor Doug Chaffee questioned the agreement language regarding the binding of future boards, the ability for a party to withdraw, and the lack of an end date.
“I hear intentions, but I don’t see them in writing,” Chaffee said. “We’re talking about three projects as being the subject matter without it clearly stating that is the subject matter.”
Nicole Walsh, the chief assistant of the county counsel, confirmed that the lack of termination date was the result of not knowing when funding would be made available. Therefore, writing an accurate termination date wasn’t feasible.
Out of concern for confusion among the board members, Supervisor Don Wagner suggested potentially pushing the agenda item back to ensure all issues were addressed.
Chairman Andrew Do requested more clarity regarding the county’s obligation to the three projects before agreeing with his colleagues to revise the agreement during their lunch break and discussing it prior to public comment.
Despite the revisions made while the supervisors broke for lunch, Chaffee disagreed with the language within the agreement that suggested the project be expanded outside the listed three projects outlined.
Chaffee abstained from voting on the agreement while the other supervisors voted in favor after clarity was granted.