The Orange County Transportation Authority is marking its 30th anniversary this month – three decades of improving the region’s transit, streets and freeways and ongoing work toward a balanced and sustainable transportation system.
In June 1991, OCTA was formed through the consolidation of seven different agencies that focused on various aspects of transportation across the county.
The move to streamline efforts into a single agency allowed for coordination of transportation planning for the county’s growing population, greatly increasing efficiency and saving millions of dollars in taxpayer money by eliminating duplication of efforts.
Since then, Orange County residents have gotten to know OCTA, not only by the familiar blue, orange and white logo on OC Buses, but also through the agency’s many efforts to connect them to employment, education, medical needs, and entertainment.
“When you look back at the 30 years OCTA has been in existence, we can take pride in so many accomplishments to improve Orange County’s freeways and streets, provide reliable transit, protect the environment, and so much more,” said OCTA Chairman Andrew Do, also the county’s First District Supervisor. “With the strong support of the public, who overwhelmingly voted to approve Measure M to fund many of those improvements, we will continue to have a bright future with a balanced and sustainable transportation network.”
Back in 1991, Orange County had about 2.4 million residents. Since then, the population has grown by more than 700,000 residents – or approximately 30 percent – and the county has increasingly become an important employment center and tourist destination, making the goal of keeping Orange County moving even more important.
OCTA’s successes would not be possible without the vision and support of local voters, who passed the Measure M half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements in 1990 and then renewed it with 70 percent of the vote in 2006.
Since then, funds from Measure M, also known as OC Go, have led to a wide range of transportation improvements, with funding help from OCTA’s state and federal partners. Those improvements included:
- Major expansions of Orange County freeways, improving traffic flow on Interstate 5, widened from six to 10 lanes, and improvements to State Routes 55, 22 and 91, among others.
- Metrolink commuter rail was added to Orange County. Prior to 1991, Amtrak was the only passenger rail service, operating one train daily between Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano. Now OCTA works with Metrolink to fund 54 weekday and 16 weekend trains serving the county.
- Bus transit was expanded and tailored to fit the county’s needs, including nearly 60 routes and 5,400 stops, as well as paratransit. OCTA also piloted microtransit with the OC Flex service and works with cities to provide shuttle services.
- In 2003, OCTA purchased and began operating the 91 Express Lanes, 10 miles of tolled express lanes between Anaheim and Riverside County that give commuters a reliable time-saving transportation option and have led to improvements throughout the 91 freeway corridor.
- More than $1 billion in OC Go funds have gone back to cities and the county for street improvements and local transportation needs.
- More than 3,000 traffic signals have been synchronized, leading to more green lights and more efficient travel.
Just as importantly, OCTA has worked to preserve what makes Orange County such a special place to live by protecting the environment.
OCTA has purchased more than 1,300 acres of open space from willing land owners to protect valuable plant and animal life forever. And more than $55 million has been awarded in competitive grants to fund projects that trap and clean up transportation-related pollution before it reaches local waterways, leading to cleaner waterways and oceans.
While taking time to mark the accomplishments of the past 30 years, OCTA, led by its 18-member Board of Directors, continues to look toward a bright transportation future. That includes work on a 16-mile, $2 billion improvement to the I-405 between Costa Mesa and the county’s border with Long Beach, scheduled to be completed in 2023.
That same year, OC Streetcar, the county’s first modern, electric streetcar along a 4.1-mile route in Santa Ana and Garden Grove, is also set to open.
“We’ve come a long way in these first three decades,” said OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson. “While we take a moment to reflect, there’s plenty to be excited about as we look ahead at expanding on OCTA’s accomplishments and keeping our residents, workers and visitors moving safely and efficiently.”
To see more about OCTA’s first 30 years, visit octa.net/30years.