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O.C. Prepares to Sell Measure M Extension

Backed by a private coalition, officials are set to put the transit tax renewal on the ballot.

July 25, 2006|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

With more than $12 billion at stake for transportation projects over the next three decades, Orange County's campaign for renewing Measure M is set to kick off today.

County supervisors are expected to vote to place the initiative on the November ballot at this morning's session, a move that's been anticipated for months.

The political campaign to extend the transportation tax until 2041 will be detailed at a subsequent press conference by a newly formed coalition of labor, business and environmental leaders.

Measure M is a half-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax approved by voters in 1990. It is set to expire 2011.

"There is not one person in Orange County, who lives, works or plays here, that doesn't know the traffic and traffic congestion that every day impacts our lives," said Lucy Dunn, chief executive for the Orange County Business Council, which is part of the coalition.

The renewal plan calls for widening freeways, expanding commuter rail service and improving major thoroughfares over the next three decades.

On Monday, the Orange County Transportation Authority approved the plan, which has won support from the Automobile Club of Southern California, the Orange County League of Cities and environmental groups. So far it has drawn no opposition.

Calling itself the Committee to Renew Measure M, the coalition has formed a political action committee and plans to raise campaign money.

Organizers said the campaign would include town hall meetings, direct mail and possibly radio and television spots.

Under the initiative, 43% of the tax money would be spent improving freeways, 32% on streets and 25% on public transit, including commuter rail, such as Metrolink, and buses.

Major freeway improvements would include nearly $5 billion to relieve the congested Riverside Freeway, Interstate 5 in southern Orange County, the Costa Mesa Freeway and heavily used interchanges such as the Santa Ana Freeway at the Costa Mesa Freeway, and the Orange Crush -- where the Orange, Garden Grove and Santa Ana freeways meet south of Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

Improvements to the Riverside Freeway, the main connector between Orange and Riverside counties, would include new lanes, interchanges and bridges.

The $3.6 billion for local streets and roads represents a doubling of the current Measure M funding.

In addition, the plan earmarks about $237 million to help reduce pollution from storm runoff and environmental damage from highway construction.

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