Caltrans admitted Wednesday that it had made a mistake--actually, the agency blamed a college intern--by failing to include the a "diamond lane" proposal in newspaper ads about a public hearing tonight.
Ronald Kosinski, a senior planner for the California Department of Transportation, placed about $3,000 in ads in The Times and the Orange County Register this week and last, announcing a meeting to gather comment on a proposal to widen the Orange Freeway (California 57).
An opponent of diamond lanes, which are those marked for use only by buses or car pools, complained that the ads failed to mention that such lanes are being considered for the Orange Freeway between the Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5) and the county line.
Kosinski on Wednesday acknowledged that the ads should have mentioned the diamond lanes.
"(The ads were) written by one of my student interns, and we really didn't have time to spend on the thing," he said. "All subsequent ads will point out that we will be considering car-pooling."
Kosinski and other Caltran officials discounted complaints about the ads from Joe Catron, who said he thinks the ads were meant to be "deliberately misleading."
Catron, who two years ago helped form Drivers for Highway Safety, a grass-roots group that opposes car pool-bus lanes because the group considers them unsafe, said Caltrans doesn't want people like him to be heard.
Told of Kosinski's explanation for the omission from the ads, Catron said: "That's very juvenile."
Kosinski said he gave the job of writing the ads to a student because his office is understaffed. He said he didn't have time to monitor the work.
Barrow Emerson, an assistant administrator for Caltrans, said that he "never heard" of a student intern writing such ads and that the wording should have been double-checked by Kosinski, regardless of the author.
Nevertheless, Emerson defended the ads, saying the possibility of car pool-bus lanes need not be raised at tonight's meeting, because the session is just "the first step in a process."
The purpose of the meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the cafeteria of Valencia High School in Placentia, is "to discuss environmental issues, not the use of the lanes," Emerson said.
Catron said if the meeting is sparsely attended tonight, his group "may take action to force the same meeting on another date."