Fifth District Supervisor Patricia Bates, the new head of the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, says her priority is to cut red tape that holds up big transportation projects in Orange County.
“We want Congress to look at the environmental process with development of infrastructure projects,” she said. “It actually extends the time it takes to build a road by seven years. You can actually complete a road in two years, so we’re talking nine years it takes to complete a project
“Look, in an emergency, like after the earthquakes, we were able to re-build in one-and-a-half years,” Bates said. “It takes us a minimum of seven years before we even hit the dirt.”
Bates represents south Orange County on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. In her new role, she replaces Jerry Amante, and was unanimously selected as the board chairwoman on Monday. She had been the vice chair. That role now goes to Laguna Niguel councilman Paul Glaab.
Bates said there are ways to streamline the environmental process because local, state and federal environmental reporting methods often force agencies to repeat tests, adding not only years, but hundreds of thousands of dollars to each project.
“I’ll be banging the gavel on getting those (projects) moving forward, and probably be traveling to Washington to remind them that they are the answer to getting these projects moving forward,” Bates said.
Bates mentioned the as one she wants to speed up. She said that project will be critical in keeping vehicles off the 5 freeway in south county–thereby reducing traffic.
The project includes beefing up by two lanes the two miles of La Pata Avenue south of Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano and hooking it up with San Clemente’s La Pata Avenue at Calle Saluda.
According to the county public works website, the environmental review for the La Pata extension will wrap up in the spring of this year.
Some of the other issues Bates said the transportation authority will focus on in south Orange County is traffic signal synchronization. She said synching the traffic signals has improved commutes significantly along Alicia Parkway, the road off of which she lives.
“From my door to the freeway, if I hit that first signal at the right time, is seven to 10 minutes faster” Bates said. “Developers in the old days built developments with theses little collector streets that dump out onto arterials, so you have 17 or 18 stoplights. The travel time on some of those roads in south county is really elongated.”