South County Expressways Proposed by Homeowners

Times Urban Affairs Writer

Hoping to speed highway work and prevent congestion, a coalition of homeowner groups Monday proposed adding two expressways to the southern end of the planned Eastern turnpike near Tustin and El Toro.

The expressways would have few entrances and exits and might be part of the county's planned toll road system, according to the proposal unveiled at a press conference by the Eastern Transportation Corridor Homeowner Coalition in Santa Ana.

One expressway would be a six-lane, streamlined extension of Jamboree Road north from Irvine, across the Santa Ana Freeway, then through Peters Canyon to the Eastern turnpike near Irvine Lake. This leg of the system would be off limits to trucks.

The other six-lane expressway--open to trucks--would be an extension of the Laguna Freeway (Route 133) north from east Irvine to the planned junction of the Eastern and Foothill turnpikes in the hills near Siphon Reservoir, above El Toro.

Below Street-Level

Both expressways would be built below street level with freeway-type ramps at the few interchanges with major arterials, such as Irvine Boulevard. There would be no intersections with traffic signals. Part of their benefit, proponents said, would be to reduce the impact of "dumping" much of the Eastern turnpike's traffic onto the Santa Ana Freeway at or near Myford Road, which is one of the alternatives under study by county officials. Residents of that area fear a spillover of traffic onto neighborhood streets.

Dual links between the Eastern turnpike and the Santa Ana Freeway at about the same locations--Jamboree and Route 133--are also under consideration by county officials.

But the homeowner coalition--unhappy with the slow pace of the county's route studies--has leapfrogged the county's procedures by its proposal specifying types of interchanges to be built, the expressway configuration and proposing restricted use.

The county's Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is not expected to complete its route studies until next spring. Specific designs would not be considered until that time.

22 Organizations Included

The homeowner coalition, led by Jim and Michele Brooks of North Tustin, includes representatives of more than 22 homeowners organizations stretching from North Irvine to Orange Park Acres in Orange.

The group has clout: Two years ago, several members persuaded county officials to drop consideration of a proposed freeway through North Tustin that would have linked the Costa Mesa Freeway and the Eastern turnpike. The freeway would have displaced hundreds of costly homes in North Tustin or forced the building of tunnels under some neighborhoods.

Several coalition members have backgrounds in transportation, including former Orange County Transportation Commission staff member Sharon Greene, now a consultant, Genavieve Giuliano, assistant director of UC Irvine's Institute of Transportation Studies, and Janine Harmon, chairwoman of OCTC's citizens' advisery committee.

At the press conference in the county Hall of Administration, Jim Brooks said the group believes its proposal will cut $100 million from the cost of full-fledged freeway ties between the Eastern turnpike and the Santa Ana Freeway and speed work, because expressways do not have to meet federal interstate highway standards and require less environmental study.

"There was a lack of consensus among cities and county agencies," Michele Brooks said. "We felt that the decision-making process was too slow and unclear. We were hopeful that homeowners could put aside any political considerations, and meet to compromise and develop a practical solution. And we did."

Max Andersen, a county road analyst at EMA, said the proposal "is not radically different" from what the county has been studying.

But he said county officials are not yet ready to adopt detailed plans because environmental impact findings on various project alternatives will not be published until March. Publication of the findings starts a mandatory, 60-day period for public comment.

The homeowner coalition hopes its proposal will mean that the Eastern turnpike could be built by 1995, several years ahead of schedule.

Bob Walters, representing the Orange Park Acres Homeowners Assn., said the coalition effort was needed because the county's regular process for soliciting public comment pits neighborhoods against each other and thus does not help build a regional consensus.

The Eastern turnpike was originally one of three new freeways planned for south Orange County. The others are the San Joaquin Hills and Foothill transportation corridors.

However, under recent state and federal legislation, Orange County officials won permission to make one of the projects a toll road and selected the San Joaquin Hills project. County officials are seeking legislation to allow all three projects to be built as toll roads or turnpikes.

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