With Orange County’s population expected to increase by more than 250,000 residents by 2035 and traffic projected to increase in South Orange County by 66 percent by 2040, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) are committed to identifying regional mobility solutions that will alleviate traffic congestion through South Orange County.
In 2015, TCA conducted a South Orange County Community Ascertainment Study to determine if there was agreement that a regional traffic relief solution was needed. The residents and community-based leaders interviewed came to a consensus on two major issues:
- There is excessive traffic on the Interstate-5 (I-5) freeway during morning and evening commute times, on weekends and whenever there is an accident or incident on the freeway.
- There is an expectation that their local elected officials and public transportation agencies should develop and implement a solution.
In collaboration with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), the County of Orange and other transportation planning agencies throughout the region, TCA began an initial process including three well-attended public forums in South Orange County to identify potential mobility improvement solutions. Over two years, the public submitted 20 ideas that were reviewed for their technical and feasible merit.
In 2017, TCA conducted an initial screening of the 20 ideas submitted by the public for the South County Traffic Relief Effort. The ideas were sorted into four categories:
- Category 1 – Already Being Advanced or Implemented
- Category 2 – Ineffective or Premature
- Category 3 – Infeasible due to Regulatory or Financial Constraints
- Category 4 – Mobility Benefits/Further Study Needed
- Initial Screening Study
- Q&A Document
Seven of the 20 ideas, plus a No Build option were included in Category 4 and advanced forward for additional analysis as part of the Project Study Report / Project Development Support (PSR-PDS).
TCA in conjunction with Caltrans developed a PSR-PDS document to preliminarily analyze the areas of traffic, right-of-way, utilities, biological resources and other environmental topics. The alternatives evaluated in the PSR-PDS included the seven identified as part of the 2017 initial screening study, plus the No Build and an idea (Alternative 21) introduced by the F/ETCA Board in February 2018. The PSR-PDS was approved in 2019 by Caltrans and it allows TCA and Caltrans to move on to the next step of initiating the formal environmental process.
New Ideas Added for Consideration
In addition to the 8 ideas that were preliminarily analyzed in the PSR-PDS, two additional ideas were brought forth in mid 2019 for consideration.
- Alternative 22 would extend Los Patrones Parkway in Rancho Mission Viejo (RMV) southerly from Cow Camp Road through RMV’s future Planning Area 5 and connect with Avenida La Pata at the southerly limits of the Prima Deshecha Landfill.
- Alternative 23 includes adding managed lanes (high occupancy vehicle or HOV) in the median of I-5 from the vicinity of Avenida Pico or SR 73 to Basilone Road, south of the San Diego County line.
With the PSR-PDS approved, Caltrans as the lead agency for the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement, will hold Scoping Meetings this fall, which officially kicks off the formal environmental review process of the various transportation improvement alternatives that will be considered for detailed technical studies.
Through the environmental review process, Caltrans and TCA will continue its ongoing discussions with the community, stakeholders, environmental organizations and elected officials. This is a public process and the community is encouraged to participate and remain engaged every step of the way to ensure your community’s needs and priorities are considered.
The formal environmental process is expected to be completed in late 2025.