County Considers Vote on Traffic Plan : May Ask Residents to Change Work Hours, Pay Higher Taxes

Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Board of Supervisors may ask voters next June whether they would change their working hours and driving habits--and pay higher taxes--to alleviate traffic congestion.

On Tuesday, the board unanimously ordered County Administrative Officer Larry Parrish to prepare a ballot measure on those questions for a possible June vote.

Because it would be only an advisory vote, all county residents could participate, including those living in incorporated areas, according to Kelly Keuscher, an aide to Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder.

Parrish was told to report to the board within 60 days, but the supervisors said they might wait until March to decide whether the questions should be on the June ballot.

Wieder, who proposed the ballot measure, said it would be more effective than a countywide slow-growth initiative.

'Problem Is Now'

"Slow growth is not the answer--the problem is now," Wieder said after the board vote Tuesday. "Slow growth is a negative; managing growth is a positive."

County officials are waiting to see if the county's cities will voluntarily adopt stricter commuting rules under a plan being circulated by the Orange County Transportation Commission.

On Aug. 10, the commission adopted a plan calling for all businesses employing 100 or more people to have 20% of their employees commute during non-peak traffic hours or use mass transit or ride-sharing within two years. The voluntary plan would increase the figure to 30% within three years.

Three cities--Costa Mesa, Cypress and Fullerton--already are implementing parts of the plan as a pilot program, and transportation commission staff members will be asking other cities to follow suit.

The plan is being circulated among major Orange County employers and business groups.

The supervisors hope to attack traffic congestion in a manner acceptable to the county and all its cities. If the transportation commission approach does not appear successful by March, supervisors may then decide to place the question on the ballot.

Federal Order Feared

Wieder said she proposed the ballot measure for fear stringent commuting rules may be forced upon the county by the federal government. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the county to comply with its air quality standards by December.

"(The ballot measure) would give Orange County residents an opportunity to express themselves," Wieder said.

Others on the board were skeptical. Supervisor Don R. Roth questioned the cost of putting the measure to a vote.

Roth and Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez said they are concerned that the ballot question may be confusing. Roth suggested that the issue of raising taxes should be separated on the ballot from traffic congestion matters.

Roth questioned whether residents would agree to pay higher taxes. He noted that the county is already considering a ballot measure for November, 1988, seeking a tax increase to pay for a new jail.

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