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ORANGE COUNTY COMMENTARY

CenterLine: Boondoggle or Mass-Transit Solution?

Light rail will mean 253,000 fewer daily vehicle miles and 14,000 fewer cars on our streets every day.

June 01, 2003|Sarah L. Catz | Sarah L. Catz, a former public member and chairwoman of the Orange County Transportation Authority's board, lives in Oak Creek in Irvine.

I have devoted the last 12 years of my life, including 10 as the public representative on the Orange County Transportation Authority's board of directors, to helping develop a secure transportation future for Irvine and all of Orange County. That's why I'm urging friends and neighbors to vote "yes" on Measure A and "no" on Measure B in Irvine's special election Tuesday.

Measure A would support Irvine's participation in the CenterLine light-rail system and would authorize a route that begins at UC Irvine, travels through the Irvine Business Complex to John Wayne Airport before heading to South Coast Plaza, the Santa Ana Civic Center and other areas. Measure B would prohibit Irvine from participating in CenterLine or any similar light-rail system -- ever.

Here are the four good reasons to vote for Measure A:

* Measure A will improve our transportation options. CenterLine will be a key component of a complete countywide transportation system that gives commuters an alternative to the automobile. According to the OCTA, CenterLine will result in a savings of 13.4 million hours of annual travel time, 253,000 fewer daily vehicle miles traveled and 14,000 fewer cars on our streets every day. As a bonus, more than half of the 170,000 employees who drive to and from work on Irvine's streets every day will be within walking distance of CenterLine.

* Measure A is environmentally friendly. CenterLine will use quiet, nonpolluting, electric-powered vehicles and have a sleek, modern design with no overhead wires.

* Measure A will protect residential neighborhoods. It will guarantee that CenterLine will not pass through any residential neighborhoods in Irvine, and any future CenterLine plans must be authorized by a vote of Irvine residents.

* Measure A will protect taxpayers. Hundreds of millions of dollars in state and county transportation funds awarded to Irvine in 1990 are available for CenterLine. Measure A does not raise taxes, and the operation of CenterLine would not require financial support from Irvine.

Under Measure B, Irvine would forfeit more than $120 million in state transportation funds that have already been set aside to build CenterLine. Those funds would be sent back to Sacramento and reallocated to other cities, such as L.A., for light-rail projects.

Proponents of Measure B insist that all of our transportation needs can be met with more roads and freeways through our neighborhoods. This is simply nonsense. We need a balanced transportation system that includes not just improved local roads and highways, but also an improved and expanded bus and Metrolink system, and yes, CenterLine -- a modern, quiet and pollution-free system that connects our major education, employment and commercial centers.

Measure A would place major transportation decisions in the hands of Irvine residents. Measure B deprives Irvine residents of a voice in their city and county transportation future by making an irrevocable decision that would kill all light rail -- not just CenterLine -- in Irvine forever.

On Tuesday, vote to protect our neighborhoods, our quality of life and our tax dollars. Vote "yes" on Measure A and "no" on Measure B.

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