Get Rid of OCTC, Measure M Foes Urge : Transportation: Measure M opponents are solid in their dislike for car-pool lanes and special transit ramps. But they do not suggest ways to finance their freeway proposals.


Charging that Measure M was full of "boondoggles," opponents of the failed half-cent highway tax proposal on Monday demanded the resignation of the entire eight-member Orange County Transportation Commission.

They also suggested that voters be asked to approve a new ballot measure that would earmark money mainly for added freeway lanes and no mass transit.

"We need to get rid of OCTC and replace it with an elected board," said Lester P. Berriman, a member of Drivers for Highway Safety, an Irvine-based, grass-roots group opposed to car-pool lanes. "They should resign." Members of Tustin-based Sane, also called Sanity in Government Now, another grass-roots group opposed to car-pool lanes and special transit ramps, agreed.

The commission, which drafted Measure M, sets overall county transportation goals and policies, funds engineering studies and other research, but it does not build roads or operate transit systems.

Berriman and other Measure M critics said during a news conference at the County Hall of Administration in Santa Ana that they do not actually expect county transportation commissioners to step down. But he said his group is hoping for a groundswell of public support for possible state legislation to abolish the panel.

Commissioners include three county supervisors, three representatives from city councils and a public member chosen by the first six. The head of Caltrans's Orange County district office serves as an eighth, non-voting member.

The county commission drafted Measure M, aided by a consulting firm, a citizens' advisory group and its own staff. The ballot proposal, defeated 53% to 47% on Nov. 7, would have increased the countywide sales tax to raise about $3.1 billion for highway and transit projects over a fixed, 20-year period.

The panel also drafted an earlier 1% sales tax increase measure for transportation that was rejected by voters, 70% to 30%, in June, 1984.

During Monday's news conference, which followed the commission's regular meeting, Measure M critics called for a new ballot proposal limited to financing regular freeway lanes--about 300 miles worth in which a new lane in each direction would be added.

Berriman and fellow Drivers for Highway Safety member Jack Mallinckrodt estimated that such a project would cost $2.4 billion, or $8 million a mile for both construction and acquisition of needed land. It would "eliminate almost all of the present congestion and the pollution, accidents and lost time it causes," they said.

The group stopped short of proposing a ballot measure with specific provisions and did not specify how such improvements would be paid for.

State and county officials, however, said a freeways-only plan would not meet state and federal clean-air regulations and would run into as much political opposition as did Measure M, especially from environmentalists, slow-growth advocates and proponents of mass transit.

During Monday's commission meeting, members bristled after a succession of speakers, including Leonard Mingoia of Huntington Beach, either called for their resignation outright or blamed Measure M's defeat on the commission's lack of leadership and expertise.

Commission Vice Chairwoman Clarice A. Blamer of Brea said at the meeting that they should seek a post-election voter survey to see why Measure M lost. And Dana W. Reed, who serves on the commission as the public's representative at large and was treasurer of the Measure M campaign, said he wants to learn why supporters, identified through pre-election polls, stayed home on Election Day.

Many factors have been cited for Measure M's defeat, including proponents' inability to get known supporters to the polls, the imposition of a statewide, quarter-cent earthquake relief tax a day before the election, Orange County voters' historical antipathy to taxes, and an intense distrust of government.

Questioned after the OCTC meeting, Drivers for Highway Safety officials said they had not done any post-election surveys to determine why Measure M was defeated but insisted that they had a pretty good idea from their own contacts with voters and previous public opinion surveys that showed additional freeway lanes--not car-pool lanes--were a high priority for most voters.

Measure M earmarked more than $1 billion for freeway improvements alone, but a large part of the funds would have involved car-pool lanes instead of regular lanes. Of the total, $550 million was earmarked for doubling the width of the Santa Ana Freeway from six to 12 lanes, about 15 years ahead of schedule. The car-pool lane projects were deemed necessary by OCTC and state officials in order to attract matching federal funds.

Blamer challenged Drivers for Highway Safety and other opponents of Measure M to get together with transportation engineers to devise alternatives. She said she had attended a two-day transportation-engineering conference in Costa Mesa last week, at which experts from around the world discussed traffic solutions and indicated that there isn't a single best strategy for reducing congestion.

And turning to Drivers for Highway Safety and SANE, she said: "They've made a commitment to just one thing--getting rid of car-pool lanes."

"Some of the great strides this country has made were the result of people willing to compromise," Blamer continued. "But these people don't want to look at anybody else's perspective."

As for the call for their resignations by the two opponent groups, Reed said: "I just don't agree with their viewpoint. I will not resign."

Carol Bryant of Tustin, who leads the Sanity in Government organization, said that the commission needs to be replaced because it is bent on changing people's behavior to fit the existing transportation system instead of building a transportation system that fits Orange County's life style.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World