disclosure -- as opposed to semi-disclosure -- I have been working on
CenterLine for a long, long time, both as a public official, which
was then, and as a consultant, which is now.
Come back with me to 1988. George Bush -- the senior one -- was
President, Southern California was growing by leaps and bounds and
the streets and freeways were jammed. It was a totally different
In that very year, a pod of central Orange County mayors (they
always travel in pods) put their heads together (fortunately no one
was hurt) and started to think deep thoughts about a light rail
system that would run through the core of Orange County.
There was the mayor of Santa Ana, Dan Young, now a senior vice
president with the Irvine Company; the mayor of Irvine, Larry Agran,
who is closely related to the current mayor of Irvine; the mayor of
Anaheim, Fred Hunter; and the mayor of Costa Mesa, whose name I can't
recall and who has not been heard from since. After a lot of
ruminating, a little cogitating and a dash of debating, the pod of
mayors gave birth, figuratively speaking, to the "Central Orange
County Fixed Guideway Agency" or, the "Central Orange County Fixed
Guideway Agency" for short.
What they proposed was a light rail system that would run from the
Irvine Transportation Center in the south, to Anaheim and Fullerton
in the north, and eventually expand east and west once the core
system was built. Seemed like a reasonable idea, but it ignited what
would become the Great Rail Debate in Orange County.
The Great Rail Debate never equaled the ferocity of the Great
Airport Debate, but it started earlier, lasted longer and will
smolder for years to come, with an occasional flare-up along the way.
As is usually the case with Great Anything Debates, what you hear the
most usually comes from one end of the spectrum or the other. In this
case, it's the cement heads on one side, and the steel heads on the
What the cement heads say, among other things, is that CenterLine
is a total boondoggle. It will cost a zillion and a half dollars and