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If County Traffic Seems Bad, Wait Until 2010, Planners Warn

Times Urban Affairs Writer

The time Orange County motorists spend in congested traffic will more than triple by the year 2010 because of continuing strong job and housing growth, regional planners warned Tuesday.

Without the addition of the planned San Joaquin Hills, Foothill and Eastern freeways in south Orange County, the planners said, the amount of time spent in traffic delays will increase from the current 10% to 62% of all travel. Even with these new freeways, which are not fully financed, time spent in traffic congestion will increase to about 34%. The planners defined delays as traffic that is not “free-flowing.” The planners--all from the Southern California Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency--discussed their dire projections during a public workshop at the Irvine Hilton about “growth, transportation and the quality of life.”

SCAG’s planners also warned that air pollution will increase significantly because of increased traffic delays and that the area’s growth will continue to worsen the current imbalance between jobs and housing.

The county’s population will grow by about 50%, or 1 million people, with 800,000 of them settling in the southeastern section of Orange County, said Dennis Macheski, manager of SCAG’s development guidance program. Although housing growth will continue to be strong here, Macheski said, the county’s share of new housing construction in the Southern California region will drop from the 30% mark reached during the 1970s to 17% by the year 2010.

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Orange County has the land area to support the projected population increase, Macheski said, but SCAG planners Joanne Freilich and Judi Hamerslough said there is a big shortfall in infrastructure support ahead, including housing, roads, and water.

The county, Freilich said, will be relatively “job rich and housing poor” and have more of this imbalance than it does now.

Hamerslough said that regionally, the average speed on all roads and freeways combined will drop from the current 35 m.p.h. to 19 m.p.h.

SCAG officials said they have not taken into account possible ballot measures intended to slow growth because their projections, to be scientifically valid, must be based on current trends and policies.

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SCAG’s members include Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties and several cities. The agency is financed primarily with state and federal grants.


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