Officials Pledge $50 Million for Disney Ramps


Gambling that the Walt Disney Co. will follow through on its $3-billion Disneyland expansion, transportation officials are moving ahead with plans for $50 million in freeway ramps and the world’s largest parking garage in Anaheim.

California Department of Transportation and county transit officials have agreed to commit money in the belief that the ramps and garage will be needed no matter what happens in the tourist area around Disneyland. Construction still would be several years off.

“We decided we couldn’t afford to wait for their decision any longer, because of the (Santa Ana Freeway) widening project reaching that point and having to make construction and design decisions now, not later,” said Lisa Mills, chief deputy at the Orange County Transportation Authority.


The decision was reached this week when the staff of the California Transportation Commission reacted favorably to funding the garage at the panel’s next meeting in March. Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly said Friday he already had talked to some state commission members about their support for the project and knows of no opposition.

A decision to go ahead with the ramps without Westcot was made several months ago, officials revealed Friday.

Daly acknowledged that the state has a projected $3-billion transportation funding shortfall over the next few years and competing priorities, such as earthquake retrofitting. Indeed, OCTA board members on Monday will be asked to approve shifting some county Measure M sales-tax funds intended elsewhere to the Santa Ana Freeway segment through Anaheim because of the state’s shortfall.

OCTA has long declared the Santa Ana Freeway the county’s top transportation priority.

But the governor’s funding commitment to Disney’s Westcot project has come under fire from some homeowners’ groups, who complained that the state can’t even afford to buy tanker planes needed to fight the kind of wildfires that recently destroyed parts of Laguna Beach and Malibu, among other areas.

Nevertheless, Daly said the decision to combine the freeway ramp and garage projects with the Santa Ana Freeway widening through Anaheim “makes sense.”

“Nothing I’ve seen or heard makes me believe anything other than that Westcot is going to be built,” Daly said. “But we need all the help we can get. . . . The project is important to Anaheim, Orange County and California. . . . “Does it put pressure on Disney? Only Disney puts pressure on Disney. But I think it makes their decision easier.”


Disney officials familiar with the freeway and garage projects weren’t available Friday, a company spokeswoman said.

Mills, who also is a Santa Ana City Council member, said local and state transportation officials concluded last year that the new freeway ramps at Freedman Way and West Street would be worthwhile, even without Westcot, because of the potential for development in the Anaheim resort-recreation zone that extends from the Anaheim Arena and Anaheim Stadium to the Convention Center.

The large, $1.6-billion project doubling of the width of the Santa Ana Freeway has been progressing steadily from Irvine through the junction of the Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Orange freeways and soon will reach the segment next to Disneyland.

Actual construction of both the freeway ramps and the combined garage, which also will be a transit stop, won’t begin until 1996, Mills said.

Adding the ramps later would cost additional millions and would mean digging up concrete only recently poured, officials said.

Disney’s commitment to Wescot, meanwhile, has wavered over time, depending on both politics and economics. At one point, company officials said it might not even “pencil out,” or be economically viable.


At the same time, Disney has been hit by staggering financial losses at Euro Disney near Paris. And Disney is insisting that it can’t build Westcot without help from the state, Anaheim and OCTA.

A memorandum of understanding among those three, involving freeway, garage and transit center improvements announced last year, remains unsigned because Disney has not concluded a development agreement with Anaheim, OCTA officials said. That agreement is expected by April.

The $50 million for the new freeway ramps and combined garage and transit center comes from $60 million previously pledged by Gov. Pete Wilson.

Actually, Mills said Friday, the $60 million has been reduced to $50 million through cost savings. Mills emphasized that the $30 million for the garage and transit center will come from cost savings on freeway projects elsewhere in Orange County and not increased state spending in the county.

Mills said OCTA officials are working to get more money from the federal government for the garage-transit center.

The first floor is to be set aside as a bus and rail stop with park-and-ride spaces. The other six or so stories would provide parking for Westcot. Parking revenue would go to the county’s future mass transit projects.


For the project’s first year, Congress has budgeted about $15 million, which is part of a much larger package involving construction of direct-connect lanes and ramps reserved for buses and car pools between the Costa Mesa and San Diego freeways.

Mills said an eventual full commitment to the garage project would be crucial to Disney but is at least a year or two from making its way through Congress.