Today it is again uncomfortably smoggy in Costa Mesa--not the smog center of Southern California by a long shot. Experts fear we are beginning a second year of drought, and central Orange County traffic nears gridlock every afternoon, causing extra tons of pollutants to be added to our airshed.
How in all of these manifestations of a damaged environment can we be talking about adding three freeways to the south county, freeways that would--by the admission of their sponsors and common sense analysis--necessarily add to the traffic mess in the central county? These extensions all terminate at existing freeways in Yorba Linda, Tustin or Irvine. From these points north, it's only more traffic on the same transportation system.
Builders talk about building toll roads, freeway agencies talk about "a high-tech median strip," i.e. dirt, "for future planning," but no one asks, or more importantly, the people do not yet insist on the answers to, the basic questions:
Can our air supply stand it? Can we add 500,000 to 1 million people and almost as many cars to Orange County without issuing gas masks every September?
Can our water supply grow enough without killing off other regions, e.g. Mono Lake and the Sacramento River Delta?
Can we deal with the central county congestion increase ? We haven't yet, so why will more central county traffic help?
Will the one-time cost of $4,000 per new south county house pay for the perpetual maintenance of these new freeways?
I suspect the taxpayer will be left holding the bag. Remember, cars and trucks do not pay their own way--local property taxes, retail costs-of-business, and other hidden charges make up the difference. (No problem, we can shorten library hours, drop extracurricular school activities, build fewer parks, hire less policemen.)
I submit that this area has undergone prolonged, loosely regulated and very large scale growth long enough--and has the seriously degraded environment to prove it. We are not "pulling up the drawbridge" when we talk about limiting growth to the amount that technological and/or administrative improvements can offset. In fact, many people who do have an option as to where to practice their profession are looking askance at our traffic and its byproducts and choosing to live elsewhere.
If we do not tie future growth to future pollution and congestion-reducing technologies and practices now , it will be too late--there will be nothing worth saving. The phony "high-tech median" down the middle of the San Joaquin Hills Freeway is the utmost in hypocrisy.
The road builders plan to build an eight- to 10-lane freeway and then determine the need for any form of mass transit. Bull! There would be no one in the area without a car, there would be no money, the die would be cast--much as it has been cast so many times in this area. Never has the automobile paid its way, and apparently there are enough shortsighted people willing to keep it that way.
ROBERT S. SIEBERT