A Super Idea Gets on the Road

On Jan. 14 a public hearing on the conversion of Beach Boulevard into a "superstreet" running 19 miles through eight Orange County cities will be held in Westminster. It will be the first in a series of hearings seeking community support for the innovative idea that could help make Beach Boulevard do what it is supposed to be doing--move traffic efficiently.

It hasn't done that for years.

At times, in fact, it hardly seems to move traffic at all. That, however, could change if residents and public officials give the plan proposed by the Orange County Transportation Commission the support it deserves.

The "superstreet approach," which includes widening the boulevard, installing bus turnouts, intersection improvements and crossovers at three major intersections, is not without its problems. The most obvious and serious one is that parking on the street would be lost. For this street, as for some others, the solution will have to be off-street parking.

The street, which carries the designation of State Highway 39, was once earmarked for freeway status, but that plan has been abandoned; making the road a freeway would have cost $500 million.

The road was originally designed for 45,000 vehicles. Today it handles about 80,900 in some spots. And by 2005, engineers say, nearly two-thirds of the 19-mile stretch will be at or over capacity. In some areas traffic will come to a standstill.

The $24 million it would take to convert Beach Boulevard into a major thoroughfare is a compromise that will help restore the capacity to move traffic. It would also save motorists more than 3 million hours and up to $23.3 million a year by reducing the time they are tied up in traffic. The "superstreet" is a super idea.

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