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Week in Review : MAJOR EVENTS, IMAGES AND PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY NEWS. : COUNTY : Santa Ana Freeway May Remain Bottlenecked, Study Concludes

<i> Times staff writers Marcida Dodson and Bill Billiter compiled the Week in Review stories. </i>

The Santa Ana Freeway may be doomed to be a bottleneck by the mid-1990s.

That’s the conclusion of a new study that looks at what’s in store for an area that already is the county’s most heavily congested.

Even with $2-billion worth of improvements to the Santa Ana Freeway and the surrounding surface streets, traffic from future growth will leave the thoroughfare hopelessly overloaded through central Orange County, the study found.

The best solutions--elevated bus lanes, a new freeway through the exclusive neighborhoods in the Tustin foothills or down the Santa Ana riverbed--could cost as much as $850 million and attract stiff political opposition.

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The study, prepared by Gruen Associates of Los Angeles, attempts to predict what will happen when traffic from two proposed new roads in the eastern part of the county, the Foothill and the Eastern freeways, empties into the Santa Ana Freeway near Myford Road, exacerbating the current bottleneck.

The result is likely to be 23% more traffic than the freeway can hold, even after two additional lanes plus two bus and car-pool lanes are built--improvements for which the county is still at least $600 million short.

But the solutions also are likely to create the worst political problems, according to the study. Three of them involve new freeways of up to eight lanes through exclusive neighborhoods in east Tustin and Lemon Heights. One involves construction of elevated bus lanes on either side of the Santa Ana Freeway. Another involves an $850-million extension of the Orange Freeway through developed areas to the San Diego Freeway.

The study recommended further consideration of other freeway routes, including an eight-lane freeway from the Garden Grove Freeway east to Panorama Heights, an eight-lane freeway southeast along what is now La Colina Drive in Tustin, improvements to Irvine Boulevard in Tustin and Irvine, and extension of the Orange Freeway south through Santa Ana and Costa Mesa to the San Diego Freeway.

A second transportation study found that tolls of 8 cents to 10 cents a mile on the Eastern Freeway--about $1 for an average trip--would come close to paying for the $198.4-million freeway.

But the study, prepared by a consultant to the Orange County Transportation Commission, found that tolls on the nearby proposed Foothill Freeway would be less feasible because drivers would be more likely to queue up on the nearby jammed Santa Ana Freeway.

The Eastern Freeway is proposed to run 13 miles through the foothills of eastern Orange County, linking the Riverside and Santa Ana freeways on a route roughly parallel to the congested Costa Mesa Freeway.


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