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A Year of Progress

December 27, 1987

At first glance, the end of 1987 is much like the end of 1986 and 1985 in Orange County: The years pass, yet nothing seems to change but the calendar. The problems we faced at the end of those years, primarily traffic congestion, high housing costs and growth management, persist--unsolved--ready to be carried into 1988.

But this year some progress has been made. The County Jail is one example. More jail beds have finally been made available. Innovative programs, such as house detention, have worked well. The federal suit against the county about jail overcrowding could be resolved soon, and although any site selected was certain to be met with opposition, the supervisors this year chose a location in Gypsum and Coal canyons for a new jail complex of more than 6,000 beds. They also approved expansion of the Theo Lacy branch jail in Orange.

And work has finally started on the expansion of John Wayne Airport. Although another site has not been found for a second commercial jet airport in the county and, indeed, there may no longer be a suitable one left, conditions at John Wayne should be getting better, at least for a little while until the expected travel demand overtakes the limited expansion under way.

The old year even saw the start of changes to ease traffic congestion through agreements between the county board and developers that require street and road improvements to be made as conditions of construction. Work also began on the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on the San Diego Freeway.

To no one's surprise, transportation problems remain the county's major headache. Commuters and homemakers, teen-agers and senior citizens all find it a most frustrating proposition. Needed are more traffic lanes and money to build them. And a public commitment that will require changes in life styles to increase the use of car and van pools, and staggered work times so that everyone doesn't begin and end the day and hit the streets and freeways at the same time.

There's nothing new in those proposals. What could be new in 1988 is greater acceptance and use of those approaches as residents continue to grow more dissatisfied with the quality of life in the county and face the chilling thought of what traffic will be like 10 years from now, maybe even as soon as five, if nothing is done soon. That growing dissatisfaction and sense of urgency represent progress. And cause for optimism as the new year starts.

Maybe 1988 is the year that Orange County voters will follow the lead of their neighbors in San Diego County and approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax for transportation projects.

And maybe 1988 will be the year that Orange County, with its affluence and economic stability, will begin doing more to help its homeless and hungry residents. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted 50 years ago, the true test of progress is not in adding to the abundance of those who have plenty but providing "enough for those who have too little."

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