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Garden Grove Files 22 Freeway Suit

City says Caltrans, OCTA haven't considered traffic impact on nearby streets in plan to widen highway.

October 25, 2003|Dan Weikel | Times Staff Writer

Garden Grove is suing Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority, alleging that the long-awaited overhaul of the Garden Grove Freeway fails to address improvements to major city streets affected by the project.

The federal lawsuit claims both agencies did not properly assess traffic impacts on nearby streets nor suggest ways to reduce potential problems as required by federal and state environmental laws.

"OCTA fixed the 91, the 55 and the 57. Now it's our turn and we want it done right," Mayor Bruce Broadwater said. "The 22 Freeway has much more traffic than it can handle, and it needs to be improved. But the current plan would create more problems than it would solve."

Caltrans and OCTA had planned to add lanes, sound walls and ramps along 12 miles of the Garden Grove Freeway from the San Diego to Costa Mesa freeways at an estimated $438 million. But because of the state budget crisis, the agencies are scaling back the project to a 5-mile stretch between Brookhurst Street and the Santa Ana Freeway.

The revised plan includes carpool lanes, widenings and improvements to ease traffic from the Orange Freeway to The City Drive and the Garden Grove Freeway. The rest of the project will be phased in as money becomes available.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges that Caltrans and OCTA failed to analyze the project's potential effects on arterial streets in environmental impact reports as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and state laws. Also named in the case is the Federal Highway Administration, which adopted the environmental reviews.

In court papers, Garden Grove officials say the project's design does not accommodate street widenings called for in the county's master plan of arterial highways.

As a result, the city claims it might have to pay tens of millions of dollars to "undo" portions of the freeway project for at least seven streets -- Brookhurst Street, Euclid Street, Fairview Street, Harbor Boulevard, Haster Street, Magnolia Street and Trask Avenue -- to comply with the master plan.

Caltrans officials declined to comment, saying they have not received a copy of the lawsuit. Federal officials could not be reached for comment.

OCTA, which has had talks with Garden Grove officials in recent months, defended its role in the project. Authority officials say OCTA has provided $2 million to Garden Grove this year for street projects, including $1.4 million for a bridge on Harbor Boulevard. They point out that under OCTA policy, cities are responsible for improvements to local streets and interchanges.

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