Bids Sought for Study of Bus, Car Pool Lanes : County Transit District Directors See Potential for Speeding Up Travel on the Busiest Freeways

Times Staff Writer

Orange County Transit District directors agreed Monday to seek bids on a $1.3-million study to examine options for bus and car pool lanes along the county's busiest freeway segments.

But the board decided against proceeding with other measures to begin implementing the new commuter lanes to make sure that the program fits in with transportation improvements planned for other areas of Orange County and that adequate funds are available.

A preliminary review of the potential for so-called High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes shows they could save significant amounts of travel time for some commuters. Moreover, they probably could be built with the money Orange County expects to have available during the next 20 years, the report said.

Transit officials envision a network of commuter lanes--lanes along existing freeways striped off for buses and carpools--and transitways, or lanes restricted by barriers, on-ramps and off-ramps for high occupancy vehicle lanes, either within existing freeway medians or elevated above the normal level of traffic.

Options under study include commuter lanes along the Costa Mesa and San Diego freeways, and also as part of a widening project for the Santa Ana Freeway. Transitways would be installed on parts of the Orange and Costa Mesa freeways and on the Santa Ana Freeway between the Orange and Costa Mesa freeways, and at some other unspecified locations.

Among the preliminary study's major findings:

- Options for high occupancy vehicle lanes now under study would cost from $275 million to $640 million to construct, while operating costs would be about $10 million to $14 million a year.

- Between 60,000 and 140,000 commuters each day would use the facilities, about 30% of them using express buses.

- Estimated travel time savings would range from seven minutes (for a commute from Tustin to the John Wayne Airport area) to 25 minutes (for a trip to the airport from Brea). The average travel time savings would be about 12 minutes saved per trip.

OCTD directors are expected to take final action to proceed with the plan sometime next month.

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