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COUNTYWIDE : Tollway Panels Plan to Speed Completion

The boards governing three proposed toll roads in Orange County voted Thursday to pursue what they see as a streamlined approach in constructing two of the tollways.

The so-called “design/build” approach, according to the staff of the tollways boards, could result in lower costs and quicker completion of the highways.

The concept calls for having one overall contractor handle most of the design work and then immediately proceed to construction. By contrast, the traditional process often involves multiple contracts for designers and builders and delays between the design process and construction.

The boards of the proposed San Joaquin Hills, Eastern and Foothill tollways met Thursday morning at Irvine City Hall. The San Joaquin Hills tollway would connect the John Wayne Airport area to the Mission Viejo-San Juan Capistrano area via a route through the coastal mountains. The Eastern tollway would extend from the Riverside Freeway near the Riverside County border to Irvine. The Foothill tollway would link the Eastern tollway with Interstate 5 near San Clemente.

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All three tollways are projected to be completed by the middle of this decade.

The board of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency voted to pursue “design/build” with the Eastern tollway but not the Foothill tollway. Staff officials said the Foothill tollway is already in advanced planning stages and would not benefit as much from the streamlined concept.

The board of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency, which met in Irvine immediately after the Foothill/Eastern board, voted for design/build for the San Joaquin tollway.

Greg Henk, a deputy director for the staff of the two boards, said design/build has the advantage of helping “to lock in costs and completion dates in advance of going to the bond market.” He said that agencies in other states experimenting with design/build found that local subcontractors still get high percentages of the work and do not suffer.

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Henk said the design/build method may accelerate construction of the Eastern and San Joaquin Hills tollways by “anywhere from four months to up to 14 months.”

In other business, the San Joaquin tollway board approved a budget of $60 million for the new fiscal year. The Foothill/Eastern board approved a budget of $71 million.


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