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Car-Pool Lanes May Be Delayed : Transportation: Measure M funds intended for work on Riverside, Costa Mesa freeways may be diverted to Santa Ana Freeway widening because of a state fund shortfall.


Car-pool lanes on the Riverside Freeway and a new lane on the Costa Mesa Freeway may be delayed several years, county transportation officials said Monday, to help pay for the widening of the Santa Ana Freeway in Anaheim.

Because of a $100-million shortfall in state funding, the board of the Orange County Transportation Authority will vote in January on whether to use about $100 million in Measure M revenue to widen the Santa Ana.

If so, that work will proceed in 1996 as planned. But the construction of car-pool lanes on the Riverside Freeway from the Orange Freeway to the Los Angeles County line and an extra lane on the Costa Mesa Freeway between 17th Street and the Garden Grove Freeway would be pushed back a couple of years, pending the reinstatement of transportation funding from the state.

"The board will be faced with a very tough dilemma," said Lisa Mills, OCTA assistant executive officer said Monday. "Either they delay the schedule for I-5 or they delay on the other projects. We think the I-5 is a higher priority."

Should the board approve the proposal, the Measure M Citizens Oversight Committee would still have to pass it by a two-thirds majority before the money could be shifted to the widening project, targeted for completion in 2002.

At $2.1 billion, the expansion of the Santa Ana Freeway from six to 12 lanes--under construction since 1987--is Measure M's most costly project. (The measure, a half-cent, countywide sales tax to finance transportation improvements, was approved by voters in 1990.) Using $660 million from the bond measure, county officials bought the Anaheim right of way with the assurance that the state would finance the construction.

But then state tax revenue did not meet projections this year, resulting in an estimated $3-billion shortfall in statewide transportation funding to various road projects and improvements.

Meantime, OCTA officials will seek state funding for 1996 to finance the delayed improvements on the Costa Mesa and Riverside freeways, Mills said.

"That's assuming that the state doesn't receive a shortfall then," she said, "and we're pretty optimistic that by the year 1996, the economy should work out and we'll get the funding again."

All of the projects "will get completed, and everything will get done," Mills said. "It's just a matter of when and which takes priority."

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