As Orange County continues to grow, should officials keep expanding freeways or start refocusing on public transit and biking?

Those kinds of questions are front and center this morning as Orange County Transportation Authority board members debate their Long Range Transportation Plan, which will outline investments over the next 20 years.

Common requests from the public, according to OCTA, include developing bike and pedestrian safety programs, synchronizing stoplights, improving transit connections and speeding up carpool lanes.

Another theme is developing “faster mass transit solutions and include innovative solutions, such as real-time passenger information and electronic ticketing to encourage commuters to use transit,” according to an OCTA staff report.

The debate over transportation investments also comes as traffic congestion continues to worsen on many local freeways and streets.

Funding for freeway projects are dwindling at the state and national levels.

The federal Highway Trust Fund is close to going bankrupt, with federal officials saying it could start bouncing checks this summer.

And at the state level, Caltrans has been described by an OCTA board member as being “way in the hole” on maintenance funding.

The state’s highway system needs about $8 billion for maintenance each year, according to Caltrans, yet only about $2 billion is expected to be available.

“The percentage of lane miles of highway pavement in a distressed condition, which is pavement with significant rutting, cracking, potholes, or other signs of deterioration, is projected to increase during the next 10 years,” the state agency declared in a report last year.

Federal law is also now mandating that traffic be sped up in congested carpool lanes.

As OCTA officials confront that challenge, they’ve suggested putting toll lanes on freeways or requiring at least three occupants for a car to drive in the carpool lane.

OCTA Director John Moorlach, meanwhile, has suggested ramping up bus service on freeways, though that idea hasn’t gained traction among his colleagues.

As for the long-range plan, board members are expected to discuss it Monday before it’s released for public comment.

The final plan is expected to be approved in September and will ultimately end up in the Southern California Association of Government’s 2016 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy.

Monday’s meeting starts at 9 a.m. at OCTA headquarters. Click here to read a copy of the draft plan.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at  and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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