Orange County

Harbor Blvd. study moves despite bumps

MAPS of the Central Harbor Study area were available for examination at Thursday’s OCTA open house in Garden Grove (OC Tribune photo).

By Jim Tortolano

Plans to modernize the county’s increasingly busy transportation system are moving ahead, even as a couple of bumps in the road have appeared. Even as the Orange County Transportation Authority holds open houses for its Central Harbor Project Study, the OCTA has to deal with some pushback from Anaheim and possibly Washington.

At an event Thursday at the Community Meeting Center in Garden Grove, Eric Carlson – a senior transportation analyst with OCTA – outlined the goals of the study, which is intended to advise the agency on how to better serve the busy Harbor Boulevard corridor. The study area runs from Fullerton in the north through Anaheim, Garden Grove and into Santa Ana to the south.

One of the proposed concepts is a streetcar, but there’s one hitch. “The Anaheim City Council has voted its opposition to a streetcar,” said Carlson. He acknowledged that “It does present us with a challenge,” adding that the newly-elected council made that decision in January, “when we are well along in the planning process.”

THE STUDY AREA takes in Fullerton, Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana (OCTA graphic).

Streetcars are only one of several alternatives, including what are called “enhanced “ buses and “bus rapid transit.” But with the progress made toward the beginning of the OC Streetcar project – linking Santa Ana to Garden Grove – the idea of extending that line up Harbor to the Disney resort and possibly also to downtown Fullerton and east to the ARTIC (Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center) near Angel Stadium and Honda Center has become prominent.

ERIC CARLSON of the OCTA (OC Tribune photo).

Another issue has been the proposed 2017-18 federal budget as put forth by President Donald Trump. The Department of Transportation is scheduled for a 12.7 percent cut from $18.6 billion to $16.2 billion. Will that be a roadblock to the OC Streetcar?

Probably not, says Eric Carpenter, a media relations specialist with the OCTA. “OCTA continues moving forward toward delivering the project. Plans for the streetcar have received widespread support from the community and from local elected officials, as well as from federal legislators,” he said.

“It’s important to remember that the Administration can only recommend federal funding levels, and it’s up to Congress to pass a budget resolution. Congressional members, on both sides of the aisle, will have their own budget priorities and will fight to protect local funding.”

OCTA is still seeking a full funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration, which could cover about half of the $298 million cost to build it.

The OC Streetcar – scheduled to begin construction in 2018 – would travel west from central Santa Ana along Santa Ana Boulevard, then pick up the old Pacific Electric right-of-way in a northwest direction, crossing Westminster Boulevard and ending at a new transit center on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove.

At Thursday’s open house, about two dozen people were on hand to hear from Carlson, ask questions and examine maps and exhibits explaining the various alternatives and routes. They were invited to provide feedback by using different-colored stickers indicating their travel routes and preferred methods. They could also voice their opinions on an iPad and laptop computer.

Another open house is set for April 5 in Anaheim. The final report to the OCTA Board of Directors is due by July 2017.






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