OCTA approves $1.4 billion balanced budget for FY 2020-21

The Orange County Transportation Authority has approved a budget of more than $1.4 billion for the upcoming fiscal year – a balanced budget that makes conservative assumptions due to the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping important transportation improvements moving forward.

The OCTA board on Monday OK’d the balanced budget, down more than $98 million compared to last year’s OCTA budget, for the 2020-21 fiscal year that begins July 1.

Major initiatives for the budget include advancing capital improvement projects, including the I-405 Improvement Project, I-5 projects in South County and Central County, the OC Streetcar, improving local streets and continuing to serve Orange County’s transit needs, while keeping health and safety as the top priority.

The budget underwent several revisions in recent months based on revenue estimates that show sharp declines in funding from both Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation and state sales-tax funding, in the wake of the ongoing public health crisis. No plans for new hiring or salary increases for administrative and professional staff are included in the budget.

“We clearly had to make some difficult decisions because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this budget demonstrates OCTA’s ongoing commitment to improving the lives of residents through transportation,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “We’re happy to continue on the path to delivering a balanced and sustainable transportation system for Orange County.”

The FY 2020-21 budget encompasses all services, projects and programs that are administered by OCTA. The budget reflects a significant investment in capital projects.

Measure M, also known as OC Go, will continue to fund improvements to freeways and streets throughout Orange County, along with multiple transit programs. Included in the budget is $418 million to help fund freeway improvements and $32 million for the OC Streetcar now under construction, which will be the county’s first modern electric streetcar in Santa Ana and Garden Grove.

Additionally, approximately $146 million will go toward improving streets and roads, including more than $56 million to provide more traffic capacity and $36 million for traffic-signal synchronization.

The budget also included funding that would keep OC Bus fixed-route service at up to the same levels as before the pandemic, with 1.6 million revenue hours made possible with additional funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Actual OC Bus service levels will be added back as demand increases and with the health and safety of the public and employees as the top priority.

The 2020-21 budget is a result of OCTA’s mission to deliver innovative, long-term sustainable transportation solutions for the residents of Orange County.

This article was released by the Orange County Transportation Authority.