County transportation commissioners shook the money tree Monday, tapping a new fund for traffic improvements that will give an estimated $24 million in grants that will benefit every city in the county and the county itself over the next three years.
The Orange County Transportation Commission authorized spending $870,000 to upgrade Pacific Coast Highway between Beach Boulevard and Golden West Street in Huntington Beach from four to six lanes through restriping and parking bans.
At the lower end of the scale was a $20,552 allocation for fixing up Harbor Boulevard at Goodale Avenue in county territory just outside Fountain Valley.
Half the money will go for work on local roads and streets, with 70 of the 76 projects consisting of repaving and rehabilitating 60 miles of roads, commission staff said. Of the remaining six projects, two will widen streets and four will coordinate traffic signals.
The other half of the $24 million will go for regional projects, such as the Pacific Coast Highway improvement and the transformation of Beach Boulevard into a "super street."
"There was an improvement approved for every city in the county and (for) the county," in the local fund disbursement, Ron Cole of the commission said.
Until this year, interest from a reserves account maintained by the Orange County Transportation District was restricted to use on transit projects, such as bus lines. A special state law now allows Orange County to use interest earned by its reserve fund for road projects over the next three years.
The district's reserve consists of money set aside to eventually build a transitway in Orange County, though what kind it will be and where it will run are still under study.
Sales Taxes Contribute
Money for the reserve comes from the local transportation fund, which receives one-quarter of one penny of state sales taxes collected in the county. Ninety percent of the local fund money is available for transit uses, including the reserve, and the remaining 10% goes for transportation planning, administration, bicycle paths and other uses.
With $12 million worth of local road and street projects authorized Monday, plus $4 million for Beach Boulevard and another outlay of more than $1 million for regional projects--the bulk of it the Pacific Coast Highway improvement--the county will have $7 million in funds left to spend on regional traffic improvements.
The other regional fund expenditures authorized Monday included $125,000 to Anaheim for a plan to use computers to monitor traffic flow and $45,000 for engineering studies for new on-ramps to California 73 in Irvine and the Santa Ana Freeway in Orange.
Most of the projects require a city receiving the funds to match the county's share.