Friday, August 12, 2016

[Orange County] OCTA largely agrees with grand jury on streetcar project

ORANGE – In a response to an Orange County grand jury report on the planned OC Streetcar, county transportation officials largely agreed with findings and recommendations to connect the light rail system to systems in Los Angeles, but they did note some limitations.
The response, unanimously approved by Orange County Transportation Authority board members Monday, addresses numerous points the grand jury raised in a May 9 report titled “Light Rail: Is Orange County on the Right Track?”
Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Anaheim and Fullerton have studied and planned for streetcar systems in recent years, but the OC Streetcar, with 10 stops in Santa Ana and east Garden Grove, is the only project to gain traction. Its design is 30 percent complete.
In the response, the OCTA staff said it partially disagreed with the grand jury’s finding that creating a draft light rail master plan this fiscal year for Orange County, with intra- and intercounty connectivity options, would be of considerable value to the public. Such a recommendation “requires further analysis,” the response states, explaining that the board in May approved a study effort through late 2017 to identify corridors suitable for transit investment, including bus and rail options.
“Any future extensions of rail transit phases in Orange County will be included in the transit master plan and be fully vetted by the OCTA board and the public,” the response states.
No funds have been identified for an expansion of the OC Streetcar or other rail projects.
Transportation authority staffers also partly disagreed with the grand jury’s finding that lack of light rail development is closely linked to different transit priorities among the 34 cities in the county. “Successful capital projects generally enjoy the strong support of the communities they are built in,” the response states.
OCTA staff agreed that Orange County would benefit from Los Angeles and San Diego counties’ history of promoting centrally organized light rail systems and expanding them in the 1980s.
“OCTA has developed positive working relationships with these peer agencies who have implemented successful streetcar projects for lessons learned and best practices that will be of benefit to the development of the OC Streetcar Project,” the response states.
Steve Jones, an OCTA board member and Garden Grove mayor pro tem, said his city is pleased the grand jury report generally indicated the OC Streetcar is headed in the right direction. “We’re on board with connectivity,” he said. “It’s just about going through the proper protocol.”
August 11, 2016
The Orange County Register
By Jessica Kwong

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