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COUNTYWIDE : Plan for Merged Transit Agency OKd

A long-embattled proposal to consolidate Orange County’s major transportation agencies has been approved by the state Legislature, clearing the way for a more streamlined transportation bureaucracy by the end of 1991.

The proposal, sponsored by state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), was passed without opposition by the state Senate late Wednesday night. The Assembly approved the bill without comment earlier this week.

But the consolidation proposal’s uneventful voyage through the Capitol contrasts with its tortuous path out of Orange County.

Until agreement was reached last May, county supervisors and city officials had long been at odds over who would control the new Orange County Transportation Authority--a merger of the current Orange County Transportation Commission, a planning body, and the Orange County Transit District, which runs the county’s bus system.

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Even the agreement that was finally worked out, which allocated six board seats to city council members, four to county supervisors and one to an at-large public member, was nearly derailed two weeks ago by new objections from Supervisors Don R. Roth, Roger R. Stanton and Thomas F. Riley.

The supervisors said they feared that immediate consolidation of the transportation agencies would simply duplicate bureaucracies and not save the county any money.

To assuage their concerns, the amended proposal passed this week by the Legislature calls for the Orange County Transportation Commission and Orange County Transit District to develop a consolidation plan by December, 1991. Only after that plan is approved by both agencies will the agency boards be merged.

“Everything was ironed out at the local level,” Bergeson said. “Once it was resolved, there was no problem up here.”

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Bergeson said she thought the news that government had voted to streamline itself might help the chances of Measure M--the proposed half-cent transportation sales tax--on the November ballot.

“There is a much greater comfort level now,” Bergeson said. “It puts some accountability into the process.”


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