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$12 million approved for transit studies

Times Staff Writer

In Anaheim, planners are mulling a monorail to move passengers from the city’s train station to its resort district.

In Santa Ana, the idea is a bit more old school -- trolleys.

In an effort to get such wide-ranging projects off the ground, Orange County transportation leaders Monday approved spending $12 million to complete environmental studies for inner-city public transportation projects.

As part of Anaheim’s plan to transform the area near Angel Stadium into a vibrant residential and retail community, the city wanted an inviting, if not entertaining, way of moving people from the train station to their destination, said Mayor Curt Pringle.

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“With the expansion of the Disneyland area, we need to keep cars off the streets” to keep traffic down, Pringle said.

Critics note that monorails are expensive compared with other forms of transportation.

But supporters say the 2.5-mile Disneyland monorail has achieved iconic status, something the city hopes to share, Pringle said.

The monorail opened at a cost of $1 million in 1959.

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By contrast, it will cost $6 million alone for environmental and preliminary engineering studies just to determine whether the idea is feasible, said Orange County Transportation Authority planners.

Santa Ana, working with Garden Grove, also received nearly $6 million to study moving Metrolink riders five miles from the Santa Ana train station to Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove.

City planners envision using a trolley or bus system that would run along the old Pacific Electric Railway right of way.

Metrolink service in Orange County is scheduled to expand, and planners have pushed cities to explore ways to get riders from train stations to area employers, malls and hotels.

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By 2010, the goal is to have commuter trains running every 30 minutes, from 5 a.m. to midnight, weekdays between Fullerton and Laguna Niguel. Seven locomotives and 59 passenger cars have been ordered, new track has been laid and parking lot improvements are scheduled or underway at stations in Fullerton, Orange, Tustin, Irvine and Laguna Niguel.

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach and other board members expressed concern about using the right of way in Santa Ana and Garden Grove and the veracity of ridership numbers submitted by Anaheim and Santa Ana.

Anaheim estimated at least 2.4 million riders annually by 2030. Santa Ana projected 4.2 million a year by 2030.

Art Leahy, OCTA’s chief executive, assured the agency’s board that its action Monday was meant to determine whether the projects were feasible. He said cities and OCTA would conduct separate analyses on ridership.

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OCTA board member and Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante wants cities to verify their ridership projections.

“I have no assurance that these numbers have been scrubbed,” Amante said. “I want to know that at the end of $6 million, we will know how many riders they’re going to have.”

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david.reyes@latimes.com

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