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ORANGE COUNTY NEWSWATCH

A Special Report: Highways

February 20, 1995|Steve Emmons

R.I.P.? The proposal for a tollway along the Santa Ana River from Anaheim Stadium to John Wayne Airport was alive and kicking only last fall. Now the county's bankruptcy has put it on the critical list. . . . The county's pledge of $125,000 to help fund start-up studies has been withdrawn, and tollway promoters "realize they have to go out and find new funding," says Dave Elbaum of the county transit authority. The plan's not dead, "but that up-front money is the hardest to get." . . . Promoters say they're still looking.

MEANWHILE: Construction of the new toll lanes on the Riverside Freeway is going so well they may open early. . . . A spokesman for the builder says the lanes, which extend 10 miles into Orange County from the Riverside County line, are complete, but not the interchange with the Costa Mesa Freeway. . . . "I wouldn't be surprised if it opened this fall," says the spokesman. "Unlike Caltrans, these guys have a financial incentive to get these lanes open." Toll is expected to average $1.75.

HOMEWARD: Valentine's Day was sweet for operators of the three-mile Foothill Corridor tollway between Irvine and Mission Viejo. Traffic set a new one-day record--13,166 trips. . . . "It surprised me," says toll-taker Jim Anderson, above. "It was even raining that day.' . . . "Working holidays" attract the most traffic, they say, because commuters will pay 50 cents to get home earlier and start celebrating. "I sure saw a lot of flowers go by," Anderson says.

RELIEF: Work on the traffic-clogged El Toro Y, where the Santa Ana and San Diego freeways converge, won't be complete until the summer of 1996, but motorists may get help sooner. . . . Weather permitting, Caltrans will open several off-freeway transition roads by year's end, allowing motorists headed to or from Lake Forest and Laguna Hills to bypass the Y altogether. . . . It will be just a taste of what's to come. Once the entire project is completed, one section of the Y will be 26 lanes wide--probably the widest in the world, according to Caltrans.

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