Orange County stands to generate tens of thousands of jobs annually over the next 25 years through smart, aggressive planning of transportation and transit improvements.
In its 2012-2035 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy, the Southern California Association of Governments identified 446 Orange County-specific transportation projects, which, if fully implemented, would create 35,100jobs a year.
SCAG, which puts together a formal RTP/SCS for its six-county region every four years, is beginning work on the 2016-2040 plan, and experts say the need and expected results should be similar.
“There is an unquestionable link between transportation infrastructure investment and economic growth,” said John Husing, president of Economics & Politics, Inc. in Redlands. “Building infrastructure creates jobs. Improving mobility allows our goods movement and logistics industries to flourish. Eliminating congestion improves our quality of life. It’s an investment — not simply spending — if we get something in return."
Planning for the 2016-2040 RTP/SCS will be a major topic of discussion May 1-2 as elected leaders and policy makers throughout the region gather in Indian Wells for SCAG’s 2014 Regional Conference & General Assembly.
For Orange County, among the projects included in the 2012 plan were:
· Adding one mixed-flow lane in each direction, converting existing HOV lane to HOT lane, and adding 1 additional HOT lane on I-405 from SR-73 to I-605, along with additional capital improvements at a cost of $1.7 billion;
· Adding two mixed-flow lanes in each direction and one additional mixed-flow lane in each direction plus climbing lanes on SR-241 from I-5 to Oso Parkway at a cost of $1.5 billion;
· Adding high-frequency Metrolink service from Laguna Niguel to LA and providing corridor improvements and rail feeder service within the county at a cost of $1.2 billion;
· Adding two mixed-flow lanes in each direction, plus climbing and auxiliary lanes on SR-241/261/133 from SR-91 to I-5/Jamboree at a cost of $1.2 billion;
· Completing the Anaheim Rapid Connection: Elevated fixed-guideway system connecting the Anaheim Regional transportation Intermodal Center, the Platinum Triangle, and the Anaheim Resort at a cost of $676 million.
The investment is needed to address aging infrastructure and expected population growth to 3.4 million people in Orange County by 2035.
“Like the rest of Southern California, Orange County is growing, and so is the need for investment in highways and transit systems,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of SCAG.
In 2012, for the first time, SCAG integrated land use, housing and environmental strategies into its RTP to meet emissions-reduction targets by the California Air Resources Board. By encouraging community revitalization and neighborhoods that are bike and pedestrian friendly, with convenient access to transit, Orange County households would save, on average, $4,000 a year in fuel, auto operating, energy and water costs.
The most obvious impact, however, would be felt on the road. Without the investments included in the 2012 RTP/SCS, average traffic delays are expected to increase slightly by 2035. With the investments, delays would fall by 6 minutes per day.
Of the $55.1 billion included for Orange County, $21.9 billion would go to highways, $7.4 billion to local streets and roads, and $25.8 billion to transit.