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Proposed Transportation Tax and County’s Freeways Today

Reading your newspaper is a favorite pastime at our house, and I rarely disagree with views of your editors. The Times editorial on July 16, “A Balanced Approach to Traffic Congestion,” however, roused me to pose an objection. The editorial offers once again the aging, misinformed myth that diamond-laning and building more freeways will reduce traffic congestion.

A 27-year resident of Orange County, I have helped pay for and watched a mind-boggling expansion of highway, street and freeway systems. Each new mile of asphalt has burdened my life with more congestion--always within six months after it was opened to traffic, and sometimes within six hours.

Who believes this myth? No one who has lived in the county for more than a year believes it.

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The highway to my grocery market is so crowded that I often wait five minutes to enter it from the street to my house, but on the other side of that highway a whole range of hills is being cut and contoured and cursed with terracing to hold dozens of new tracts. A new freeway--the San Joaquin corridor--is under construction to carry thousands of tract dwellers to work and back home.

Developers, county supervisors and assorted politicians, Caltrans, dirt-mover makers and others with vested interests in growth want more roads. The rest of us do not. We are also very much against the proposed increase in sales tax to pay for it.

Is the new ballot proposal actually (as represented in the editorial) more “balanced”? Is the cost “reasonable and acceptable”? Is it more “palatable” to voters? None of the above. The whole unsavory mess makes me queasy.

What is to be done then? How can we stay the further deterioration of our life styles by the bane of growth? We can vote “no.” We can stand firm against more freeways, big streets, little streets, and asphalt in any form.

We must grit our teeth and live with the present level of congestion; we must accept the fact that more highways always make congestion worse. After a time the migration into the county will slow. Few will choose to live in a county that takes three hours to cross. False promises by growth advocates about gridlock relief will be seen for what they are. The dirt movers will crawl out of the hills.

The congestion will continue, but it won’t get any worse--as it always and relentlessly has over the past quarter of a century of highway-building madness. We won’t need to mount slow-growth proposals in every town and district. Taking on congestion, like an armor, will slow the growth for us.

The dust will settle, plants and small animals will begin to reappear, the rising level of pollution will go horizontal, and it could even fall.

We can vote “no” on more highways and “no” on taxes to pay for them on Nov. 7. We can endure congestion and learn to love it for the protection it brings.

RICHARD STROUP

Laguna Beach


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