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TimesOC: As traffic worsens, construction of the OC Streetcar is underway

"Sign up for our TimesOC newsletter" and the L.A. Times logo over the Huntington Beach Pier at sunset.
TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, July 9. I’m Ben Brazil, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

Like its sibling to the north, traffic in Orange County has only gotten worse over the years. But, unlike Los Angeles, Orange County has never really invested in public transportation.

Now, after decades of resistance, the OC Streetcar is slated for completion in about two years.

Reporter Hannah Fry wrote this week about the long road to the development of Orange County’s light-rail system that will hopefully free up the roads and curb local pollution.

As San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego and the northern Bay Area developed rail lines, Orange County chose to build toll roads, further investing in the automobile. The county is finally getting into the rail game, though it’s just a start. Fry wrote that the $423-million OC Streetcar will have just six light-rail vehicles, covering about four miles, connecting the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to streets near Little Saigon.

Fry outlined that the acceptance of the streetcar could be owed to the fact that it’s being built in working-class areas, away from the rich folks and suburbanites of Orange County.

“There’s a growing recognition that Orange County has become more like Gotham City and less like Mayberry, and people are beginning to realize the private automobile alone is not going to work for us,” Fred Smoller, an associate professor of political science at Chapman University in Orange, told Fry. “There’s a greater acceptance for other types of transportation.”

A child plays along rail tracks in Santa Ana, where construction is underway for a light-rail system, dubbed OC Streetcar.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

NEWS

— Two Orange County men allegedly tricked investors into buying $1.8 million in cryptocurrency to gain access to a trading program that they falsely described was profitable. The operation was run out of Fountain Valley.

— A homebuilding and housing affordability advocacy group started a petition in support of a state plan to find space by 2029 for about 1.34 million homes in Southern California, including about 183,000 in Orange County. The petition is in response to a lawsuit filed by the Orange County Council of Governments that takes issue with the state-mandated figure.

— Orange County Fire Watchers will help stop fires before they can grow and spread this wildfire season. The program will use virtual and in-person monitoring this fire season, which experts predict will be severe.

— The Fourth of July may have been a celebratory event for much of the county, but about 120 animals were injured after being scared by fireworks during the three-day weekend.

SPORTS

— Angels player Jared Walsh has turned into an All-Star after gaining confidence after a big game last season when he hit a game-winning three-run home run. Walsh is now one of the best first basemen in the game.

— As another sign of the return to normalcy, the U.S. Open of Surfing is returning to Huntington Beach. The Open is the largest professional action sports competition in the world. It has been regularly held in Surf City.

— The Orange County Soccer Club defeated the Tacoma Defiance to increase its unbeaten streak to seven games. The team will face Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday.

LIFE & LEISURE

— Three Orange County art museums will receive $185,000 from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts: Grand Central Art Center, Orange County Museum of Art and Laguna Art Museum. TimesOC checked in with the recipients.

Question of the Week

Orange County is a big, diverse community with a bustling entertainment and tourist industry. Yet the county has major hurdles to overcome — homelessness, climate change, political corruption and law enforcement misconduct. Oh, and a pandemic. We want to hear your opinions on these subjects!

Each week, we’ll ask you a new question and post some of the answers in the following newsletter. Please send your answers to Ben at benjamin.brazil@latimes.com or Carol at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

Now for this week’s question (please keep your answer to 75 words or less):

Shohei Ohtani is the first two-way baseball player of significance since Babe Ruth. He’s on the same team as the American League’s best player: Mike Trout. Other than these two, who are the greatest Angels in history?

Stay in Touch

If you have a memory or story about Orange County, we would love to read it (please keep your story to 100 words or less).

We want your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Send any tips or comments to benjamin.brazil@latimes.com or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

Keep up with community news on our Orange County page. Follow us on Twitter at @timesocofficial.

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