According to an agreement drawn between Orange County's 26 cities and the Orange County Transportation Commission, the cities are obliged to accept traffic generated by major county roadways or lose funds the commission allocates for local road projects.
The funds come from interest earned on mass transit money that the Orange County Transit District has on deposit. Withholding the money from cities is especially justified when it is applied against such cities as Santa Ana and Laguna Beach, which do not seem the least bit reluctant to accept the benefits traffic brings but oppose any county or state plans to help it flow better.
For example, Santa Ana is the county seat. As such, it attracts many people who must travel to county departments and agencies and the courts to do business. Those people contribute to the city's economy.
It's the same story in Laguna Beach, where tourism is the main industry. The public flocks there. Still, both cities have been reluctant to support the county's plan for arterial streets and highways designed to move traffic through the county as quickly and freely as possible.
In Santa Ana's case, the City Council tried to reduce the number of cars traveling along Flower Street, which is a major approach to the downtown Civic Center area. It went so far as to officially ask Caltrans to close down the Flower Street off-ramp from the Garden Grove Freeway and lowered the street's designation from a four-lane "secondary arterial" to a residential street. After the county commission threatened to cut off $2.1 million in road improvement funds, Santa Ana officials withdrew their closure request and further agreed to designate Flower Street a "residential collector street."
Laguna Beach, however, stands to lose $131,000 because it allowed parts of a residential project to encroach into the land that was earmarked for widening El Toro Road and for constructing an on-ramp to the proposed San Joaquin Hills Freeway. The city has opposed widening the road and the proposed new freeway just as it did when the improvement of Laguna Canyon Road was first proposed.
That's a short-sighted and selfish stand. The city should accept its regional responsibility and do its share to help ensure a better flow of traffic countywide. All cities must. If they don't, they deserve to lose funds the commission can withhold.