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Price of pride halts O.C.'s freeway welcome sign plans

A monument pointing out Interstate 5 upgrade is on hold as cost is disputed.

June 10, 2008|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

A freeway sign to help boost Orange County's image took a few shots Monday, proving once again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Members of the Orange County Transportation Authority's board have proudly thumped their chests over an ongoing widening project on the 5 Freeway on their side of the county line in Buena Park.

When the project is finished in 2010, drivers slowed by the unimproved section in Los Angeles County will notice how smoothly the road runs through Orange County's portion. And if they don't, a proposed sign would help remind them.

"The sign serves the function of knowing you entered Orange County," said Tom Bogard, OCTA director of freeways. "It will be a sign where a freeway built in the '60s at six lanes comes into one of 10 lanes."

Rather than sign, though, think monument: "ORANGE COUNTY" spelled out in 3- and 4-foot letters resting on stone towers.

Eventually, markers would be placed at six freeway entry points to the county.

Not so fast, said board member Peter Buffa. He supported a gateway but took exception to the latest incarnation.

"It's kind of stodgy," said an uninspired Buffa. "It's old. Maybe it reflects the age of the board members, but it needs to be edgier."

Other board members quickly added their comments: "Well, maybe it needs to be peppier," said Chairman Chris Norby, a county supervisor.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle thought the sign looked "distinctive."

Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche, who had to leave the meeting early, told fellow board members she liked it and that whatever they did, "Don't change it to read, 'The OC.' "

But it was the sign's $250,000 price -- with an additional $25,000 yearly maintenance cost -- that raised the most eyebrows.

"I'm having a tough time with this," Supervisor and board member John Moorlach said.

"Right now prices are high and we'll be spending lots of money on this. One question that gets lost is whether it's necessary."

After a few more comments, the apparently dull yet distinctive sign went back to committee for further study.

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david.reyes@latimes.com

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