SANTA ANA — The price for some sections of the massive Santa Ana Freeway widening project, listed by transportation officials as the county's top traffic priority, soared more than 26% last year, Caltrans said Wednesday.
California Department of Transportation officials attributed the increase to Orange County's rising land values and construction expenses. Revised estimates for key segments of the project are now $274 million, up $57 million from last year's estimate of $217 million.
The revised figures do not include $125 million in local funds to be used for parts of the project, including special ramps for car-poolers and bus riders.
The new numbers, which also do not include any portion of the project north of the intersection of the Garden Grove and Orange freeways, were released only hours after the Orange County Transportation Commission issued a report showing that 11 out of 13 Caltrans projects in Orange County, including parts of the Santa Ana Freeway job, are behind schedule.
"I'm livid," said Anaheim Councilman Irv Pickler, a member of the commission. "I just don't know what to do. One section is 33 months behind schedule, another 17 months behind. It's a pattern that's very disturbing, and it could put the Disneyland project in jeopardy."
Pickler was referring to the competition between Anaheim and Long Beach for a new Disneyland theme park.
Newport Beach lawyer Dana W. Reed, the commission's public-at-large member, said he didn't want to "bash" Caltrans because while he was undersecretary of business and transportation for the state, he spent more than two years working with Caltrans in Gov. George Deukmejian's first administration.
But, Reed added, "I'm very disappointed. Strictly by coincidence I'm meeting with Caltrans Director Bob Best (today) in Sacramento, and I'll be sure to bring this report with me."
Reed said some of Caltrans' problems stem partly from a lack of funds and the diversion of architects and engineers to seismic-safety projects. Private consultants hired to speed portions of highway projects in Orange County are also behind schedule, he said.
Caltrans Deputy Director Barry Rabbitt said Wednesday that OCTC's report was accurate but was keyed to the advertising dates for soliciting bids on different phases of the Santa Ana Freeway project, some of which have been broken up into smaller contracts that will help reduce construction time.
Rabbitt said that by shifting some funds and advertising dates, Caltrans actually expects to complete the section of the Santa Ana Freeway between the Costa Mesa and Orange freeway interchanges by February, 1996, nine months ahead of the most recent schedule.
The freeway is scheduled to be widened from six lanes to 12 lanes, with special ramps for car-pools and buses.
The total cost of the project from San Juan Capistrano to the San Gabriel River Freeway in Los Angeles County is now pegged at about $1.9 billion, officials said.
However, no state funding commitments have been made for sections beyond the Garden Grove-Orange-Santa Ana freeway interchange.
The section between the El Toro "Y" in Irvine and the Costa Mesa Freeway is currently under construction.