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By OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett
Traffic congestion and relief in South County have been the subject of much discussion and debate for many years. Delivering real and viable solutions to ease traffic and relieve congestion along our highways and major arterials has long been a top priority for me. As past chair and current board member of the Orange County Transportation Authority and Transportation Corridor Agencies, I have collaborated with key stakeholders and led efforts to analyze and study a multitude of options that could potentially provide short- and long-term solutions to South County’s traffic issues. I am pleased to announce that those efforts have paid off and South Orange County residents are now one step closer to spending more time doing the things they love, and less time stuck in traffic!
Recently, I convened a working group of key stakeholders to create local transportation solutions and discuss congestion relief projects. This collaborative effort resulted in the County of Orange, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and the City of San Clemente signing a Cooperative Agreement to support three transportation projects identified and recommended in the 2020 South County Traffic Relief Effort study, as follows:
• Construction of the Los Patrones Parkway Extension as a non-tolled county arterial from its current terminus at Cow Camp Road to Avenida La Pata in San Clemente
• OCTA and Caltrans efforts to complete high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane improvements on Interstate 5 between Avenida Pico and the San Diego County line
• The Ortega Highway (SR-74) Widening Project in San Juan Capistrano from two lanes to four lanes between Calle Entradero and the city/county border
The Cooperative Agreement was crafted utilizing data from the Foothill Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) traffic study, which indicated regional traffic concerns could largely be alleviated by a three-pronged transportation solution. The results of the traffic study were unanimously approved by the Board of Directors for both the Foothill Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency and the Orange County Transportation Authority.
The signing of the Cooperative Agreement was significant in that it brought together key stakeholders to create a local solution to transportation needs, rather than allowing the state to set restrictions through legislation. In addition, the agreement assures the City of San Clemente’s support for the Los Patrones Parkway Extension, a non-tolled county arterial, by conforming its General Plan to allow for the new road. Furthermore, the agreement protects existing open space and conservation easements in San Clemente by ensuring no transportation projects will be constructed within that space, while at the same time, allows for major transportation projects in South County that will deliver mobility solutions.
I am more than pleased with the outcome of this local, collaborative process and the resulting benefits in terms of traffic relief. With South County’s population and employment growth expected to increase over the next several years, I will continue to monitor our transportation needs and look forward to reviewing the recommendations from OCTA’s South Orange County Multimodal Transportation Study.
Lisa Bartlett sits on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, representing the 5th District. She was reelected in 2018.