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Life In <i> What </i> Fast Lane?

About 200 business and community leaders gathered at Chapman College last Thursday to talk about “Transportation and the Quality of Life” in Orange County. By day’s end, it was obvious that there is not much quality to life on the freeways and that the county has more traffic problems and disintegrating roads than it has money, or prospects of money, to fix.

One state official told the forum audience that the best government can hope to do is improve the worst roads. County Supervisor Bruce Nestande, who is also the chairman of the California Transportation Commission, reported that if all the maintenance and construction projects proposed over the next five years are built, traffic congestion will still double on the state’s highways and freeways.

We doubt that anyone attending the forum, sponsored by the Orange County Transportation Commission, really expected to find solutions to what is one of the most serious problems facing the county, its future and, as the forum’s traffic theme noted, the quality of life.

But the forum did produce one positive, encouraging approach and common ground that freeway advocates, environmentalists, advocates of growth and opponents of growth could share--the adding of express lanes to existing freeways for car and van pools and buses. Ride-sharing is becoming increasingly popular in many Orange County companies. It would be used even more, along with bus service, if the special express lanes, rather than just more lanes, were added to Orange County freeways.

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Transportation officials, who are considering adding such commuter lanes to several Orange County freeways, say one express lane can carry more people per hour in peak periods than four other freeway lanes combined. That fact seems to be attracting broad community support. Considering the county’s freeway needs, and shortage of funds to meet them, the express lanes now seem to be the best available prospect for unclogging some of the congestion on Orange County’s freeways.


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