City gives freeway plan the red light

February 01, 2005

Alicia Robinson

You'd think anyone who's been on the 55 Freeway at rush hour -- which

is more like "rush three hours" -- would applaud the Orange County

Transportation Authority for working on ways to solve the area's

traffic congestion.

But it turns out not everyone is cheering the authority's ideas.

One major, controversial proposal includes extending the Orange


(57) Freeway from the Garden Grove (22) Freeway to Coast Highway

along the Santa Ana River channel. While local officials are

skeptical that an extension from the San Diego (405) Freeway to the

coast would ever be built, they're still wary of the plan.

Costa Mesa is the only city to agree that an extension of the 57

Freeway is even worth studying, but city officials would not support

building beyond the 405 Freeway, City Manager Allan Roeder said.

The proposed extension might require multi-level interchanges to

connect it to the 405 Freeway, which would cause problems for the

nearby Mesa Verde neighborhood, he said.

Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor is straightforward in his

opposition to the idea.

"I most definitely do not want to see the 57 go south of the 405,"

he said. "That would have such a negative impact on the quality of

life of Costa Mesa residents, and I don't think they'd put up with


Neither, apparently, would residents of neighboring cities.

Huntington Beach officials have come out against the plan to bring

the 57 Freeway into their city, because they think it will dump

unwanted traffic on them while also making it easier for people to

leave the city to shop.

Opposition also would come from Newport Beach, though it is not

included in the transportation authority's project-study area, and

none of the traffic improvements would be built there.

Newport also resisted an earlier plan to extend the 55 Freeway to

Coast Highway, an idea that may get new traction.

Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell, who chairs the

transportation authority's board, said he wants to move forward with

an in-depth study of the possible transportation fixes. That study

should include an extension of the 55 Freeway because Costa Mesa

officials want it considered, Campbell said.

Other elements of the transportation authority's plans include

widening the 55 Freeway, which would probably worsen congestion at

the freeway's existing end at 19th Street and Newport Boulevard.

The transportation authority is collecting public input on its

proposals, and the board will vote in March whether to proceed with a

year-long detailed study that would yield a comprehensive plan.

But what kind of improvements can be built will also hinge on

funding, and to that end the board is considering a ballot proposal

to extend Measure M, the half-cent sales tax that expires in 2011.

Local officials know better than to expect much state or federal

funding, Campbell said.

"[The studies] may come up with the best engineering solutions in

the world, but right now there's no money to do it," Campbell said.

"I think Orange County's going to have to take matters into their own

hands with an extension of Measure M."

For more information, visit online.

* ALICIA ROBINSON covers government and politics. She may be

reached at (714) 966-4626 or by e-mail at alicia.robinson

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