With the special election for a vacant Orange County Board of Supervisors (BOS) seat approaching on March 9, The Epoch Times reached out to each candidate and asked about their infrastructure and transportation goals.
More than $1 billion is spent every year on the county’s infrastructure improvement projects and public transit.
The BOS oversees the public works department, and supervisors sit on the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) board.
Each candidate was asked: What, if any, major changes would you like to see with Orange County’s road infrastructure and public transit?
Candidate and Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley didn’t respond to interview requests.
John Moorlach, a former District 2 Supervisor, said “any major projects or improvements can be accomplished, [but] the funding sources must be in place.”
“I believe the county and OCTA have done a good job of focusing on lanes versus trains. The Measure M sales tax has been allocated in a responsible manner,” Moorlach told The Epoch Times.
Measure M, also known as OC Go, is a half-cent sales tax that goes toward transportation improvements in the county and is projected to generate $11.6 billion through 2041.
Funds from the measure have been used to improve street conditions, expand Metrolink train routes, increase synchronized signals at intersections, and expand the county’s freeways.
The $1.9 billion northern segment of the San Diego Freeway (I-405) improvement project was funded by Measure M.
Now more than halfway complete, the project will add one extra lane in each direction, transforming these lanes into dual express lanes for a 16-mile stretch through its busiest sections.
“For the widening of the San Diego Freeway through the Second District, I would be opposed to converting current existing and added carpool lanes into toll or congestion pricing lanes,” Moorlach said.
Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon brought attention to the county’s progress in infrastructure and transportation.
“Orange County has always been on the forefront of thoughtful infrastructure planning. I would seek to continue leading the way on delivering transportation infrastructure that works for our community,” Muldoon told The Epoch Times.
OCTA currently operates more than 500 buses, mostly with clean-burning compressed natural gas.
To meet the goal to have a 100 percent electric bus fleet by 2040, the county debuted the largest hydrogen fueling station for transportation and is piloting 10 plug-in electric buses.
Janet Rappaport, an international tax attorney, has seen a change in the county’s traffic congestion.
“Having grown up in Orange County, I have experienced the increases in traffic congestion,” Rappaport told The Epoch Times. “I am disappointed that Orange County transportation planning did not emphasize components such as bikeways or efficient public transportation in between Orange County cities and between Orange County and Los Angeles.”
She said she hopes Orange County can become more like Los Angeles in terms of public transportation infrastructure.
“I think we should focus on the long-term future and see how we can begin to develop a robust public transportation system, like Los Angeles and connecting with Los Angeles,” she said.
She plans to ensure bicyclist safety on roads by creating more bike lanes, as bikes and electric bicycles become more popular.
“On a local level and wherever we can, I would also advocate carving out safe bikeways as people are moving more and more to bicycles, electric bicycles, and trying to use this mode of transportation for commuting,” Rappaport said. “Orange County is a dangerous proposition if you are a bicyclist of any kind, children, adults or visitors, all attracted to the nice weather and beautiful scenery of our county but very few safe places to ride.
“We should be looking at making all these changes now for the future so that we can emphasize our transportation friendly, tourist friendly, bike friendly environment in Orange County.”
Fountain Valley Mayor Michael Vo said he’ll work with OCTA and partner agencies to identify necessary improvements to the county’s infrastructure.
Vo said reevaluating the county’s infrastructure is a top priority, prior to making improvements.
“First and foremost, we need to assess the county’s infrastructure. By doing so, we can properly identify the infrastructure that needs to be improved, which should be our primary focus before building new infrastructure,” Vo told The Epoch Times.
He said that once the current infrastructure projects are completed, the county should work to reduce traffic on the roads and freeways.
“We should work with partner agencies to determine additional infrastructure that must be built out of necessity to improve traffic on Orange County’s roads,” he said. “The County currently provides numerous public transit options for residents and visitors with transportation needs.”
The special election will be held March 9 to replace former District 2 supervisor Michelle Steel, who was sworn into U.S. congress in January.