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Golden Hood Ornament and Dented Hubcap Awards

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the clock ticks toward the end of 1990, it’s time to take stock of another year on the traffic-stalled streets of Orange County. So, with no further ado, a drum roll please. . . .

Ta-da!

Yes, folks, it’s the First (and perhaps Last) Golden Hood Ornament and Dented Hubcap Awards.

No, don’t turn that newspaper page. You’re not dreaming. This is really happening to you. We’re going to pass out the trophies (if we ever pick them up at the local wrecking yard) honoring the best and worst on the road in 1990.

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Hey, why not? Traffic is a not-so-benevolent dictator in our lives--it can determine what time we get up in the morning, influence where we live or work, toy with our moods, even determine how much money is left in our wallets by month’s end. So what better way to vent than an awards ceremony celebrating good and bad on the highway?

There have been no scientific polls. There are no sealed envelopes. The sole judge in this little contest is yours truly. But don’t feel shy about making your own nominations in the weeks to come. Cards and letters are welcome.

While there are lots of obvious losers, like the infamous El Toro “Y” and the Byzantine knot where the Orange, Santa Ana and Garden Grove freeways meet, I’ve edged away from the glaring trouble spots in favor of more obscure successes and failures.

So here goes. Spotlight center stage. These are the winners:

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Sign Sleuth: A Golden Hood Ornament to Lynn Merle of Costa Mesa for pointing out that northbound Brookhurst Street in Fountain Valley lacks a sign advising motorists to make a right turn on Talbert Avenue to pick up the San Diego Freeway. Alerted to the problem, authorities put up a new sign.

Seeing Red: A Dented Hubcap to Santa Ana for the fickle red light on Civic Center Drive at the parking lot just west of Flower Street. This sucker turns red at all hours of the day or night, whether any cars are leaving the parking lot or not.

Beam Me Up: Telecommuting may sound like something Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock would practice, but the idea of using a computer to do your work at home is here today. Lots of workers could do it, but few actually get the chance. A Golden Hood Ornament to those persistent souls who talked their bosses into letting the PC do the driving.

South Coast Mess: Maybe it’s just my typical post-Christmas blues, but the ramps and overpasses linking the San Diego Freeway to the shopping kingdom of South Coast Plaza seem particularly onerous these days. Cars headed north on the freeway must cut across traffic sweeping off the Costa Mesa Freeway. Motorists steering south encounter the dreaded, looping off-ramp that leads to the Bristol Street overpass across the freeway. A Dented Hubcap to all involved.

It’s Not the Freeway: A Golden Hood Ornament to John R.M. Wilson of Costa Mesa for noting Southern Californians’ peculiar practice of using the when referring to freeways, as in “go get on the 91.” As Wilson noted, we’re giving freeways far too much respect. Just say, “Get on 91.” Class dismissed.

Day of the Dozer: Huntington Beach gets a Dented Hubcap for permitting a contractor to jump the gun and begin bulldozing private land to widen Ellis Avenue before the city obtained ownership.

55 Is Alive: Lord knows we never thought we’d see the day, but there has been a marked improvement since the California Department of Transportation completed the transition road from the southbound Santa Ana Freeway to the Costa Mesa Freeway. Although the ramp twists a bit, traffic now flows smoothly at all but the busiest times of day. A Golden Hood Ornament for that one.

John’s Grinning: The wonderful concrete loops, aprons and lengthy lanes of the new John Wayne Airport surely deserve a Golden Hood Ornament. Once a nightmare, the airport has turned into a sweet dream for motorists. Parking is plentiful, and the passenger loading zones seem to stretch forever. And getting to the place, especially for those using the convenient new exit and entrance ramps on the Costa Mesa Freeway, is much easier.

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John’s Spinning: OK, enough happy talk. There remain a couple of traffic problems at the new airport terminal that must have the Duke rolling in his grave. Why aren’t there more signs on surrounding streets to guide out-of-towners to the place? Why is the queue of available taxis so short? Where are those machines they promised to automatically pay a parking stub? Hence, the airport also gets a Dented Hubcap.

Trimmer Tree: Anita Freedman noted that an overgrown evergreen was blocking a sign on Katella Avenue announcing the northbound on-ramp to the Costa Mesa Freeway. Her concern got maintenance crews out on the scene to trim back the overzealous tree.

Going Boom: A Dented Hubcap to the owner of any car or truck in Orange County equipped with a boom-box stereo. The things make my teeth rattle two lanes away. I’d love to pull the plug on all 200 decibels. At this rate, the occupants of these boom wagons will be deaf by the time they’re 30. Maybe they should learn to love Mozart.

High-Speed Lotto: Dean D.E. Alexander earns a Golden Hood Ornament for suggesting that the state adopt his “Diamond Lane Lottery” to woo people into the car-pool lanes. Winners would receive cash or prizes for using the diamond lane. But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for Sacramento to embrace this one.

Signal Shark: John Richards II of Los Alamitos earns a Golden Hood Ornament for chastising all of us who don’t use our turn signals as required by law. Richards goes so far as to use his signal for a right turn into his driveway, a move he admits is greatly appreciated by the neighborhood cats.

Road Blocks: A Golden Hood Ornament to Santa Ana for the traffic-diversion system installed at Washington and Flower streets to keep commuters out of a residential neighborhood hugged by those thoroughfares. While many motorists griped, they only need imagine how they’d feel if hordes of cars roared past their homes each day.

Meter Reader: Lynn Dani of Mission Viejo gets a Golden Hood Ornament for suggesting that Caltrans improve the ramp meter that regulates traffic swinging south onto the Orange Freeway from westbound Yorba Linda Boulevard. Her concerns prompted the agency to swivel the lights so they can be seen by motorists farther up the road.

Traffic Bust: A Dented Hubcap to the motorcycle cop who stopped Bob David of Irvine for an alleged driving error and announced that the city has a “100% enforcement” policy on all traffic violations. City police say they have no such policy, noting that their officers give tickets out only about 50% of the times they stop motorists.

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Zsa Zsa Wanna-Be: Dale Corneliso of Laguna Hills gets a Golden Hood Ornament for suggesting that I sounded like Zsa Zsa Gabor for being “biased” in favor of bicyclists who break the rules of the road. Corneliso also gets a Dented Hubcap for missing my point--I think bicyclists who break the law should be treated just like Zsa Zsa.


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