OCTA Focuses on a Long-Range Transportation Plan

Orange County transportation officials are developing a new long-term plan for freeways, roads, trains, buses, bicycles and pedestrians, with opportunities for public comment over the coming months.

The Long-Range Transportation Plan projects to 2035 and considers the county’s future transportation needs, based on housing, employment, population, financial and environmental factors.

The effort was discussed at Monday’s meeting of the Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors, where agency staff noted the plan’s crucial role in obtaining funds for large-scale transportation projects.

Orange County’s long-range plan, officials said, will be incorporated into the larger Regional Transportation Plan compiled by the Southern California Association of Governments.

“In order to get regional projects funded, they need to be in the SCAG regional transportation plan,” said Kurt Brotcke, strategic planning director.

Officials plan to identify key policy issues in July, draw up strategies in the fall and release a draft plan next summer.

Among the issues are intercounty connections to Los Angeles International Airport, along with connections between Orange County and Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties; improving public transit, freeways and tollways; and involving the South Orange County toll road agencies more in the planning process.

Given Southern California’s heavy dependence on cars, efficiency and environmental sustainability have emerged as a dominant theme in regional planning.

A summary of the current Southern California plan states it “contains a regional commitment for the broad deployment of zero- and near-zero emission transportation technologies in the 2023–2035 time frame and clear steps to move toward this objective.”

“The development of a world-class zero- or near-zero emission freight transportation system is necessary to maintain economic growth in the region, to sustain quality of life, and to meet federal air quality requirements,” it adds.

Orange County’s current long-range plan was approved in 2011.

Monday’s plan discussion came just after OCTA directors unanimously approved almost all of a $1.3-billion budget for fiscal year 2013-2014.

Bolstered by increased sales tax projections, the new budget includes a 4-percent boost to bus service, about half of which is going toward a faster bus line on Harbor Boulevard.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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