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March 11, 2021

News
OCTA Moves Forward on Plans to Improve 57 Freeway in Anaheim

Freeway improvements on 1-mile stretch between Orangewood and Katella avenues build on previous widening through important stretch of SR-57

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority, in partnership with Caltrans, is moving forward on a project to improve northbound State Route 57 in a critical part of the central Orange County freeway network.

The OCTA board earlier this week approved a plan to enter into a cooperative agreement with Caltrans and to release of request for proposals to find a qualified consultant to prepare plans, estimates and specifications.

The SR-57 Northbound Improvement project will extend a fifth regular freeway lane along a 1-mile stretch of the northbound freeway between Orangewood and Katella avenues, at the border of Anaheim and Orange.

“This important Measure M project builds upon investments OCTA has already made to enhance the 57 freeway,” said OCTA Chairman Andrew Do, also the county’s First District Supervisor. “Once it is complete, commuters and truck traffic will enjoy more efficient and consistent trips through central Orange County.”

In recent years, OCTA worked with Caltrans on additional improvements through the area, including widening the 57 freeway and improving on- and off-ramps between Anaheim and Brea.

The 57 freeway serves as a vital north/south link in the central part of the county for commuters and commercial truck traffic.

The ramps in that area are used by drivers to reach important entertainment destinations, including Angel Stadium, Honda Center and Disneyland Resorts, as well as the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC).

One of the unique engineering challenges of the project is widening the ramp above the existing rail tracks used by Metrolink and Pacific Surfliner trains. Plans call for making the improvements while not affecting rail traffic.

OCTA and Caltrans worked with the cities of Anaheim and Orange to complete the environmental review process in 2019.

The project, estimated to cost approximately $50 million, is scheduled to break ground in 2025 and be completed in 2027.

For more information, visit www.octa.net/57fwy.

February 10, 2021

News
Solutions and Community Consensus Drive OCTA’s South County Transportation Study

The first phase of a study to address the long-term needs of South Orange County is complete and was reviewed by the OCTA Board; work on the study, with ongoing public input, will continue through 2021

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority board this week reviewed the results of the first phase of an ongoing study to address south Orange County’s transportation needs as the area continues to grow with new residents and jobs and as travel patterns and needs evolve.

The study, called the South Orange County Multimodal Transportation Study, is looking at a wide range of transportation needs and solutions over the next 25 years, including improvements to streets, bus and other transit options, highways and bikeways.

The area covered by the study encompasses about 40 percent of Orange County, generally south of State Route 55 to the San Diego County line, and from the coast to the foothills.

“Fundamental to our role at OCTA is our work with the public to understand transportation needs throughout the county,” said Chairman Andrew Do, also Orange County’s First District Supervisor. “With its focus on population and job growth patterns unique to South County, this study will give us valuable insights to help shape a future in which residents and businesses continue to thrive.”

During the first phase of the study conducted in fall 2020, the OCTA team engaged with residents and stakeholders and completed a survey in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Mandarin.

Among the survey findings, the respondents said that they would like to see:

  • Reduction in traffic congestion
  • Increased frequency and accessibility of multimodal transportation, and
  • Increased safety and efficiency for all modes of travel.

The survey also indicated that, in addition to improving and maintaining freeways and streets, those who responded recognize the need to address transportation challenges and want to see an increase in alternative transportation frequency and accessibility.

OCTA, which is Orange County’s transportation planning agency, is responsible for providing a balanced and sustainable transportation system for the entire county. The focus on south Orange County is necessary because over the next 25 years, projections show population growing by 170,000 residents and an additional 130,000 jobs are expected.

At the same time, travel patterns and transportation needs have continued to evolve since OCTA’s last major transportation study of the area in 2008. The projects from that study have resulted in more than a $1.5 billion investment in the area, including OCTA’s I-5 carpool lane project between San Juan Creek Road and Avenida Pico, and OCTA’s I-5 widening between SR-73 and El Toro Road now under construction.

Since the 2008 study, other significant changes have occurred, including a near-term strategy to improve traffic agreed to by OCTA, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), and Caltrans. That strategy includes:

  • Extending the I-5 carpool lanes from Avenida Pico to the border of San Diego County
  • Widening Ortega Highway, and
  • Extending Los Patrones Parkway as a non-tolled county street.

Other changes have included introduction of mobile transportation apps and on-demand services such as Uber and Lyft, as well as the introduction of community transit options like shuttles and trolleys.

The South County study continues into the second of three phases, scheduled through the end of 2021. Residents, business owners and other key stakeholders will be asked to participate throughout in order to develop community consensus on transportation solutions that should move forward for further development.

For more information, visit: www.octa.net/southocstudy. Click on the “stay connected” tab to sign up for updates.

February 5, 2021

News
I-405 Project Meets First Major Milestones of 2021 with Partial Opening of Two Bridges

The first half of the Westminster Boulevard bridge opened on Jan. 28, first half of Fairview Road scheduled to open Feb. 12

ORANGE – The I-405 Improvement Project is reaching the first of many milestones scheduled to be met in 2021, with the opening of the first halves of the Westminster Boulevard and Fairview Road bridges.

The first half of the new Westminster Boulevard bridge in Westminster opened to traffic on Thursday, Jan. 28, and the first half of the Fairview Road bridge in Costa Mesa is expected to open on Friday, Feb. 12. The two bridges are among 18 to be built, widened or replaced as part of the project, which aims to speed up travel times on I-405 between Costa Mesa and the Los Angeles County line.

Both Westminster Boulevard and Fairview Road are being demolished and reconstructed in two stages, one half at a time, allowing them to remain open to traffic in both directions during construction.

Demolition of the second half of the bridges will require overnight closures of I-405. The freeway near Westminster Boulevard is scheduled to close overnight on Saturday, Feb. 6. Closures near Fairview Road are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 20, and again on Saturday, Feb. 27.

Construction of the I-405 Improvement Project will continue in full swing throughout 2021. Half of the 18 bridges being rebuilt as part of the project are anticipated to be completed by the end of the year.

The Talbert Avenue and Magnolia Street bridges, along with the first half of the Bolsa Avenue bridge, are expected to open in the first half of 2021. Later in the year, the Heil Avenue pedestrian overcrossing, along with the Edwards Street, Bolsa Chica Road and Goldenwest Street bridges are scheduled to open.

For the latest construction schedule, as well as closure and detour information, visit the project’s interactive map at octa.net/405map or download the free 405 Improvement mobile app in the App Store or in Google Play.

The I-405 Improvement Project, now more than halfway complete, will add one regular lane in each direction between Euclid Street and I-605, and a second lane in each direction in the center of the freeway from SR-73 to I-605 that will combine with the existing carpool lanes to form the 405 Express Lanes.

This 16-mile segment of I-405 is one of the most heavily traveled stretches of highway in the nation, and drivers routinely face severe congestion in both the regular lanes and carpool lanes. The project is critical to accommodate expected employment, population and housing growth throughout the region.

The speed limit on I-405 has been reduced to 55 mph between SR-73 and I-605 for the safety of drivers and construction crews for the duration of the project, which is expected to be completed in 2023. Drivers are advised to slow down and proceed with caution whenever signs of highway work are present, and drivers whose vehicles become disabled should pull off at the nearest exit, if possible.

For more information about the I-405 Improvement Project, visit octa.net/405improvement.

February 4, 2021

News
OCTA Completes South Orange County Rail Project Early

Addition of passing siding track in Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano reduces rail commuter delays

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority has completed work on a new passing siding railroad track in Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano that reduces delays and enhances safety for rail traffic traveling through the area.

The project added 1.8 miles of new passing siding railroad track between the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Metrolink Station and Trabuco Creek in San Juan Capistrano, running adjacent to the I-5 freeway.

The $36.4 million project was led by OCTA, and built by Reyes Construction, in collaboration with Metrolink and the cities of San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Niguel. Enhanced safety measures were taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and, with strong collaboration between all partners on the project, it was finished approximately three months ahead of schedule.

“Even with the challenges of today's public health crisis, OCTA continues to push forward on important projects – including these rail improvements – to deliver more efficient and sustainable transportation infrastructure for the future of Orange County,” said OCTA Chair Andrew Do, also the county’s First District Supervisor. “Fewer delays and faster trains in south Orange County benefit our entire rail network.”

The passing siding track was constructed adjacent to the existing track, connecting to it at each end, which allows trains traveling in opposite directions to pass each other without stopping. Previously, trains often had to wait for rail traffic traveling in the opposite direction to pass before proceeding.

The new track will reduce delays and provide more reliable rail service for passengers traveling through the region.

Additional improvements as part of the project include:

  • Relocating the existing side branch track, or spur track, south of the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Metrolink Station
  • Improving the private crossing from Camino Capistrano to Saddleback Rancho Capistrano
  • Raising approximately 600 feet of Camino Capistrano near the private rail crossing
  • Paving a small area near Camino Capistrano to accommodate parking for train crews and maintenance personnel

For more information, visit www.octa.net/passingsiding.

February 2, 2021

News
91 Express Lanes Finances Strong Despite COVID-19 Challenges

Annual report shows Express Lanes continue to give drivers a reliable option to speed up commutes while helping all drivers along the corridor

ORANGE – The 91 Express Lanes continues to provide a reliable and convenient option to speed up travel times for drivers traveling through the 91 corridor, and it remains in a strong financial position despite the many challenges of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis.

Those findings are further detailed in the recent 91 Express Lanes Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019-20 compiled by the Orange County Transportation Authority, which has owned and operated 10 miles of the facility between State Route 55 in Anaheim and the border with Riverside County since 2003.

In 2017, eight additional miles were added to Interstate 15 in Corona, making the 91 Express Lanes a total of 18 miles of seamless managed lanes.

“We have always taken a conservative approach to managing the finances of the 91 Express Lanes, and that has helped us weather the many challenges brought about by COVID-19 and the impacts on usage,” said OCTA Chair Andrew Do, also Orange County’s First District Supervisor. “That planning means that the Express Lanes continues to meet financial obligations as we continue to advance transportation improvements for everyone who uses the 91 corridor.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, use of the 91 Express Lanes was on track to maintain the impressive growth OCTA has seen during the 17 years it has operated the facility. In February 2020, total trips were up compared to the same period a year earlier by 3.3 percent and gross potential revenue had risen 5.6 percent.

But since March 2020, when California issued stay-at-home orders related to the pandemic, the 91 Express Lanes experienced a 14.6 percent reduction in traffic and a 10.3 percent fall in gross potential revenue.

Even with the lower usage, the 91 Express Lanes still maintains strong ratings from all three bond rating agencies. The ratings reflect consistent revenues and long-term prospects for continued traffic growth and include the following: A+ from Fitch Ratings, AA- from Standard & Poor’s, and A1 from Moody’s Investor Service.

Technological advances also continued on the 91 Express Lanes, with installation completed during the past year on a new electronic toll and traffic management system. The technology streamlines the tolling process, allowing for smaller sticker transponders. Because the new transponders are less expensive to produce, simplified account plans and savings are being passed along to customers.

Additionally, toll revenue collected beyond what it costs to pay for lanes continues to fund transportation improvements for everyone who travels through the 91 corridor – whether or not they choose to use the Express Lanes.

So far, nearly $46 million in toll revenue has been used to add additional lanes on SR-91 and make other improvements to the area, with additional funds in reserve for more projects to ease congestion as the area continues to grow.

In the past year, the OCTA board authorized the use of 91 Express Lanes excess revenues for two projects along the 91 corridor, including between SR-55 and SR-57 and a project in cooperation with Riverside County that will add a sixth general-purpose lane in each direction between SR-241 and the Riverside County line.

For more information about the 91 Express Lanes Annual Report, click here or visit www.91expresslanes.com.

January 25, 2021

News
OCTA’s 2021 Initiatives and Action Plan Focus on Accessibility, Sustainability and Collaboration

Chairman Andrew Do and CEO Darrell E. Johnson unveil innovative, balanced plan to deliver on promises, keep Orange County moving

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority board today presented the 2021 Board and CEO Strategic Initiatives and Action Plan, the document that prioritizes what will guide the agency as it continues to negotiate the challenges of the COVID-19 public health crisis while remaining fiscally conservative and working to provide a balanced, sustainable transportation system for Orange County.

Orange County First District Supervisor Andrew Do, who was elected as OCTA chairman earlier this month, unveiled the initiatives, along with OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson, who developed an action plan based on the Board’s priorities.

The Initiatives and Action Plan include:

  • Reliable, Accessible, and Balanced Transportation Choices
    • Provide Balanced Public Transportation Options and Solutions
    • Deliver Improvements to Fulfill Measure M Promises
    • Engage with Diverse and Disadvantaged Communities
  • Financial Stewardship, Sustainability and Resilience
    • Champion Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability
    • Plan and Adapt to a Changing Environment
    • Demonstrate fiscal responsibility and effective Measure M2 administration
  • Organizational Excellence and Collaboration
    • Enhance Workforce Diversity and Inclusive Work Culture
    • Adapt to a Changing Workplace, Promote Employee Development and Safety
    • Provide Quality Customer Service and Collaborate with Regional Partners

“After the disruptions we’ve seen this past year, high-quality transportation options are more important than ever,” said Chairman Do. “We also must ensure that our practices as they relate to customers, contractors, and employees are fair and equitable. The initiatives adopted by the Board today position OCTA to meet this moment – both the challenges and opportunities we will face this year – and help us fulfill our important mission of keeping Orange County moving. I’m eager to work with my colleagues to continue improving the quality of life for Orange County’s residents, workers and visitors.”

In the year ahead, OCTA will continue work on several important transportation projects and adopt a revised Measure M Next 10 Delivery Plan, to ensure fiscal sustainability and the continuation of critical programs and projects. That includes the $1.9 billion I-405 Improvement Project, between Costa Mesa and the border with Los Angeles County, and ongoing work on OC Streetcar, Orange County’s 4.1-mile modern electric streetcar that will run through Santa Ana into Garden Grove.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic remains, OCTA will continue to provide essential transit services to those who rely upon it, keeping the health and safety of the public and employees as the guiding priority. Chairman Do said that OCTA will work to enhance efforts to reach diverse communities and small and minority-owned businesses to connect with OCTA, hear their voices and help them grow.

The initiatives will also enhance OCTA’s efforts to attract and maintain a strong workforce, while continuing to build relationships with external partners and stakeholders. Examples of that are extending the College Bus Pass program and collaborating with neighboring counties, including San Diego County on Interstate 5 improvements between Avenida Pico in San Clemente and the county border.

“Even with the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are moving forward with ambitious plans to evolve and improve transportation,” OCTA CEO Johnson said. “I am confident and excited that we are moving forward with a balanced and innovative plan that continues to prioritize the health of our communities.”

To learn more about OCTA programs and projects, visit www.octa.net.

January 11, 2021

News
First District Supervisor Andrew Do Elected as New OCTA Chairman

Director Mark A. Murphy, also mayor of Orange, chosen as Vice Chair

ORANGE – Orange County First District Supervisor Andrew Do was unanimously elected today as the new Chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, which is responsible for planning, funding, and delivering transportation-improvement projects and public transit for all of Orange County.

Chairman Do served as the OCTA board’s Vice Chairman for the last year. He replaces outgoing Chairman Steve Jones, the Garden Grove mayor, who remains on the board.

“It is an honor to be selected by my colleagues to lead OCTA’s Board of Directors this year,” said Chairman Do. “I look forward to working with them and the public to provide a balanced, sustainable, and innovative transportation system to keep Orange County moving. Considering the challenges of the past year, I recognize how essential public transit and improvement projects are to ensuring our communities are safe, healthy, and financially sound.”

He began serving on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2015, representing the residents of Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Westminster, Fountain Valley, and Midway City. That same year he also began serving on the OCTA Board. He has represented OCTA at the Metrolink Board of Directors since 2018.

Born in Vietnam, Chairman Do fled to the U.S. with his family after the Fall of Saigon and grew up in Garden Grove. After attending the University of California at Davis for his undergraduate degree, he attended the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and received his Juris Doctor. He taught for three years as an Adjunct Professor at Cal State University, Fullerton and served as a Judge Pro Tem at Orange County West Municipal Court.

After several years providing legal representation to poor and indigent defendants, Chairman Do worked as an Orange County Deputy District Attorney. He has also given back to his community by serving as a Garden Grove City Councilman, the President of the Asian Bar of California, and an elected member of the Orange County Bar Association’s Board of Directors.

Elected by the board to serve as Vice Chairman was Director Mark A. Murphy, also the mayor of Orange. Murphy has served on OCTA since 2017. Murphy has served as chair of OCTA’s Regional Planning and Highways Committee, as a member of the Executive Committee and SR-91 Advisory Committee.

Sworn in today as new members to the OCTA Board were Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento and Mission Viejo Mayor Brian Goodell.

Sarmiento serves as president of the Orange County Water District Board of Directors and was sworn in as Santa Ana mayor in December 2020.

Goodell is a two-time Olympic swimming champion and was elected to Mission Viejo City Council in 2016 and won re-election in 2020.

The OCTA board is comprised of 18 members, including the five county supervisors, two members from city councils in each of the five supervisorial districts, two public members and the Caltrans District Director serves in a non-voting ex-officio capacity.

December 23, 2020

News
OCTA Asks for Public Input to Enhance Natural Disaster Preparation

Brief online survey to help keep services running in event of flood, wildfire or earthquake

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority is continuing its efforts to ensure county residents, workers and visitors can keep moving even in the event of a natural disaster and is asking for public input to help in this ongoing effort.

OCTA’s Hazard Mitigation Plan is designed to support existing emergency and crisis management plans. Those who use OCTA services – including OC Bus, Metrolink commuter rail, OC Flex and OC ACCESS paratransit service – are asked to help update the plan by completing a brief survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HR85JM9.

The 13-question online survey is available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese and will be online through Friday, Jan. 8.

The valuable public input received will help OCTA better plan for how to keep services running in the event of natural disasters such as flooding, an earthquake or wildfire.

Completing the plan will also help OCTA qualify for federal funding opportunities that will allow for enhanced measures to prepare for such natural disasters.

For more information on OCTA programs and services, visit www.octa.net.

December 15, 2020

News
First OC Streetcar Rail Set into Santa Ana Street

A major project milestone, track installation is underway starting at Bristol Street and Santa Ana Boulevard

ORANGE – Construction of the OC Streetcar has reached a major milestone as construction crews have set the first rail into place that will eventually carry the streetcar vehicles through the streets of Santa Ana and Garden Grove.

The rail was set in place this month at the intersection of Santa Ana Boulevard and Bristol Street, and crews are continuing working to place rail westbound toward Raitt Street.

“This is an important and very exciting moment for this project as the public can begin to see the actual rail being set into the street for Orange County’s first modern-electric streetcar,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “I hope the community shares my excitement to see this project coming to fruition to provide another important public transit option.”

The OC Streetcar will run on just over 4 miles of track in each direction through Santa Ana and Garden Grove. It is scheduled to begin testing and operations in 2022.

Updates on the OC Streetcar construction and a video celebrating the streetcar rail being set into the street will be part of a Virtual Community Open House about the project scheduled for 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17.

To participate in the meeting at that time via Zoom – or to see the recorded version after – visit www.ocstreetcar.com.

The OC Streetcar route will serve Santa Ana’s thriving downtown and dense employment areas that include county and local government offices and courthouses in the Civic Center.

The streetcar will carry passengers between the busy Santa Ana transit center and a transit stop at Harbor Boulevard and Westminster Avenue in Garden Grove, running along Santa Ana Boulevard, Fourth Street and the Pacific Electric right-of-way and connecting with OCTA’s busiest bus routes.

Six vehicles – with two spares – will operate daily, making stops at 10 locations in each direction every 10 to 15 minutes. Manufacturing of the Siemens S700 streetcar vehicles began in late 2019 and are being built in northern California.

For more information on the project, visit www.ocstreetcar.com.

Attached: Artist rendering of the OC Streetcar.

December 14, 2020

News
OCTA Adapts, Overcomes Pandemic Challenges to Deliver Successfully on 2020 Initiatives

Board reviews 2020 Accomplishments that included continuing to make freeway and transit improvements and providing regional leadership among obstacles of COVID-19

ORANGE – Throughout 2020, the Orange County Transportation Authority adapted and pushed through the many unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to continue keeping its promises to deliver a balanced and sustainable transportation network for Orange County.

A summary of the many accomplishments for OCTA in 2020 was presented today to the OCTA Board of Directors, comprised of 15 elected and two appointed members from across the county, and a Caltrans representative.

The Board led the way in directing policy that made necessary adjustments to protect the health and safety of the public and OCTA employees, while continuing to keep Orange County moving.

“As an organization we worked diligently to proactively address the unprecedented challenges of this public health crisis,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “I’m proud of OCTA staff and our Board of Directors for accomplishing so much toward providing essential transportation improvements and services for Orange County.”

Milestones for the year were guided by five overarching Board Initiatives:

  • Comprehensive Mobility Solutions
  • Regional Leadership and Public Transparency
  • Resiliency, Sustainability and Innovation
  • Fiscal Accountability
  • Organizational Excellence

Accomplishments included advancing projects promised to voters through Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. Among them are important freeway improvements on I-405, continuing to make improvements on I-5 in South County, and completing the I-5 Central County Improvements Project – four months ahead of schedule.

Other notable accomplishments included continuing to build the OC Streetcar in Santa Ana and Garden Grove, funding street improvements and enhancing the OC Bus system.

OCTA also took strong steps forward with zero-emission bus efforts, debuting the largest transit-oriented hydrogen fueling station in the nation and approving a separate pilot program for 10 plug-in electric buses.

OCTA demonstrated resiliency and regional leadership in dealing with the effects of COVID-19, to help protect employees and the public.

That agency-wide effort included providing consistent messaging in multiple languages to keep the public informed about safety measures on the OC Bus system, including temporary rear-door bus boarding, limiting the number of bus passengers for social distancing, implementing face covering requirements, and installing hand sanitizer and face-covering dispensers on all OC Buses.

The entire bus fleet was equipped with driver shields, which allowed a gradual and safe return to front-door boarding.

OCTA capitalized on years of planning to quickly transition to remote work and virtual meetings when the pandemic hit. All Board and Committee meetings were transitioned to a virtual format starting in March.

More than 500 administration employees smoothly transitioned to working remotely due in large part to extensive crisis planning, a remote-work pilot program, and a years-long effort toward cloud computing.

“We are proud of the leadership OCTA showed and all of the accomplishments throughout 2020,” OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson said. “All of those efforts put us in a strong position to continue providing essential transit services and building an even stronger transportation network for Orange County in 2021 and into the future.”

For a more complete summary of OCTA’s 2020 Accomplishments, please visit: http://www.octa.net/2020Accomplishments.

December 7, 2020

News
SR-55 Improvement Project Receives $140 million from CTC

Funds from California Transportation Commission will help move forward project to improve 55 freeway between I-5 and I-405 in central Orange County

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority has been awarded $140 million in competitive state transportation funding, a major boost to help build the State Route 55 Improvement Project between I-5 and I-405 in central Orange County.

The funding comes from the California Transportation Commission (CTC), which awarded $115 million from the SB1 Trade Corridor Enhancement Program and $25 million from the SBI Local Partnership Competitive Program.

“We are very thankful to the CTC and Caltrans for recognizing the importance of the SR-55 improvement project for Orange County and for the support of so many local elected officials and partners to help OCTA move forward with these vital improvements,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove.

The SR-55 Improvement Project is a critical part of fulfilling the promise of Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax – overwhelming renewed by voters in 2006 – to make improvements to freeways, streets and public transit.

SR-55 is a vital north-to-south freeway that links central Orange County to the coastal region. More than 260,000 vehicles use that stretch of SR-55 every day, and that number is expected to grow to nearly 275,000 vehicles by 2040.

The freeway is also an important route for commercial traffic with an estimated 17,000 daily truck trips. The improvements are expected to save up to 1,500 hours in daily truck travel time, helping improve air quality, as well.

The SR-55 project will add a regular lane and a carpool lane in each direction between I-5 near Santa Ana and Tustin and I-405 near Irvine and Costa Mesa. It will also add auxiliary lanes to help traffic smoothly enter and exit the freeway. The improvements will increase access to job centers, healthcare and educational facilities, South Coast Plaza and John Wayne Airport, among other important destinations for the region.

The project is estimated to cost $474 million with additional funds coming from Measure M, also known as OC Go, and other state and federal funding. It has completed the design phase and construction is expected to begin in 2022. Improvements are estimated to be finished in 2026.

For more information, visit: www.octa.net/sr55.

November 11, 2020

News
OCTA to Test 10 Zero-Emission Plug-in Electric Buses

Pilot program of plug-in battery-electric buses, in addition to testing of hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses, part of OCTA’s goal to produce no bus emissions by 2040.

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority board this week approved purchasing 10 plug-in battery-electric buses for a pilot program to test how the buses perform on Orange County streets.

The contract with New Flyer of America, Inc. is for $10.4 million, with substantial grant funding helping pay for the purchase of the 10 buses.

The move is part of OCTA’s plan to convert the OC Bus fleet to 100 percent zero-emission technology by 2040.

Earlier this year, OCTA also began operating 10 hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses, and this new pilot will help determine which technology – or mix of technologies – will work best for Orange County moving forward.

It’s another important step toward zero-emission transportation technology for a balanced and sustainable future – one that will help bring even cleaner air quality to Orange County.

“This is a great opportunity for us to gather important data about the latest zero-emission technologies to ensure we continue providing the highest level of safe, reliable transit to Orange County riders,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “At the same time, we are helping provide an even cleaner environment.”

OCTA has already gradually transitioned its fleet over the years, from diesel-burning buses to clean-burning renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) buses with near-zero-emission engines. The state has set a requirement to transition to complete zero-emission transit within the next 20 years.

In June, OCTA approved a zero-emission bus (ZEB) rollout plan, which was submitted to the California Air Resources Board.

The plan is not a commitment to a specific type of technology. OCTA is testing both hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses and plug-in battery-electric buses to determine which ZEBs best meet OCTA’s needs related to operations, maintenance and cost, among other factors.

The 10 plug-in battery-electric buses are each the standard 40-foot length with capacity of up to 76 riders, (OCTA is currently limiting bus occupancy because of COVID-19). The buses have an estimated range of 200 miles between charges, which will allow them to run for a full day and be charged nightly at OCTA’s Garden Grove bus base.

Five of the 10 test buses are scheduled to run on a new Bravo! route between Anaheim and South Coast Metro in Santa Ana. The other five will operate throughout Orange County.

Five of the buses are funded by grants through the California Transportation Commission and SB 1, and through the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) administered by Caltrans.

The hydrogen fuel-cell buses, which also create no emissions, began operating in January, when OCTA debuted its hydrogen fueling station in Santa Ana. In all, it represented a $22.9 million investment. More than half of that funding – $12.5 million – came from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

OCTA operates more than 500 buses in the regular OC Bus system across Orange County. For now, most of those buses run on CNG but OCTA is working toward the goal of producing zero emissions.

OCTA will begin phasing in additional zero-emission buses as part of future bus purchases beginning in 2023. At the same time, staff will continue to analyze emerging technologies and work with partners to secure funding for purchase, operations and maintenance of the buses.

The effort aligns with California’s Innovative Clean Transit Rule, a first-of-its kind regulation in the U.S. that sets a goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100 percent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. The Innovative Clean Transit Rule is part of the state’s comprehensive program helping to achieve California’s air quality and climate goals.

The hydrogen fuel-cell buses continue to be tested on routes throughout Orange County. The plug-in battery-electric buses are expected to begin operation in Orange County in late 2021.

October 15, 2020

News
OCTA Invests $3 Million to Clean Orange County Water

Funds will go to 12 cities for filters and catch basins that have helped capture 33 million gallons of trash

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority board this week voted to invest nearly $3 million to improve water quality in Orange County from Fullerton to San Clemente.

The funds come from Measure M, the half-cent sales tax renewed by Orange County voters in 2006 for transportation improvements. Measure M, also known as OC Go, includes funding for an environmental cleanup program that awards money on a competitive basis to cities and the county for projects that reduce the impacts of water pollution related to transportation.

“Protecting the county’s natural resources, while at the same time improving our transportation network, is a key promise made to voters through Measure M, and this is another good example of fulfilling that promise by keeping our water clean,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the mayor of Garden Grove.

The OCTA board approved $2.8 million available for 12 projects focused on removing visible pollutants, such as litter and debris, from roads before they reach waterways and the ocean. These projects include purchasing or upgrading screens, filters and inserts for catch basins, as well as other devices designed to remove pollutants.

The cities that received funding include: Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Irvine, Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, San Clemente and Yorba Linda.

The OCTA board has approved funding for 177 projects since the inception of this program in 2011, totaling just more than $25 million. It is estimated that more than 33 million gallons of trash has since been captured as a result of the installation of these devices.

For more information on the Measure M water quality program, visit octa.net/water.

Attachment: A complete list of projects approved by the OCTA board is attached.

October 7, 2020

News
OCTA Welcomes Public Input on Freeway Express Bus Service Study

Study with Caltrans to consider adding bus rapid transit service to Interstate 5 and State Route 55

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority, in partnership with Caltrans, is studying the possibility of adding bus service to a section of Interstate 5 and State Route 55 through Orange County, and is welcoming public input.

The study is considering two potential freeway bus rapid transit (BRT) routes, one on approximately 30 miles of I-5, between the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo transit station and the Fullerton Park and Ride, and the other on SR-55 between the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach.

Freeway bus rapid transit is express bus service that travels on the freeway, using carpool lanes, express lanes or even shoulder lanes to more efficiently serve key destinations. Stations would be located along the freeway and would connect to those key destinations with local bus service and shuttles.

In the process, encouraging public transit would help take more people out of single-driver vehicles and help ease freeway traffic congestion.

Orange County residents, and those who use freeways to get to work and visit destinations along the I-5 and SR-55 freeways, are encouraged to take a brief online survey to help give valuable feedback on the BRT plans.

A public webinar for more information on the project is scheduled for 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Participants can take the survey, register for the webinar and find more information on the project, including a video overview of the study, at www.octa.net/FreewayBRT.

The survey can also be taken by calling (909) 494-2900 through Nov. 16.

The study builds on the 2018 OC Transit Vision, which established a plan for the next 20 years of transit in Orange County and identified the I-5 and SR-55 corridors as high priorities for transit. The study will identify potential operating lanes, station locations and needed parking, among other necessary infrastructure improvements.

The study is expected to be completed in early 2021.

September 24, 2020

News
OCTA Again Awarded National Honor for Financial Reporting

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United State and Canada recognizes OCTA for comprehensive report in ‘spirit of full disclosure’

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority was recently recognized by the leading association of government finance professionals for excellence and transparency in financial reporting.

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada this month awarded OCTA the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended in June 2019.

OCTA has received the high honor each year since it was founded in 1991.

The Certificate of Achievement is the association’s highest recognition for government accounting and financial reporting. It is judged by an impartial panel of experts from the association who review the report for its ability to clearly communicate the agency’s financial story and for a “spirit of full disclosure.”

“OCTA prides itself on being transparent with the taxpayers of Orange County and this award is another clear indication that we are achieving that goal,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “Through the tremendous work of our staff and Board, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to wisely and efficiently use the funds entrusted to OCTA to improve our transportation system and, ultimately, our residents’ quality of life.”

OCTA has an annual budget of $1.4 billion, approved by a 17-member Board of Directors each year after a budget workshop, numerous updates in public committee meetings and the board’s annual public hearing.

An independent,11-member Taxpayer Oversight Committee also holds an annual compliance hearing to ensure that funds from Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, are being administered in accordance with the ordinances that were first approved by voters in 1990 and overwhelmingly renewed for 30 years in 2006. The Taxpayer Oversight Committee has determined for 29 consecutive years that Measure M is being delivered to voters as promised.

The Taxpayer Oversight Committee has determined for 29 consecutive years that Measure M is being delivered to voters as promised.

Amidst the uncertainty of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic impacts, OCTA continues to provide frequent financial updates to the Board of Directors for utmost transparency and accountability.

September 16, 2020

News
OCTA Approves $1 Million for Santa Ana Bus Stop Upgrades

Local Measure M sales tax funds will help improve shelters, other amenities at 35 bus stops

ORANGE – The OCTA Board of Directors this week approved more than $1 million to make improvements to 35 of the county’s busiest bus stops in the city of Santa Ana, helping provide newer, more comfortable shelter for passengers waiting to ride OC Bus.

The funds are provided through Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation, also known as OC Go. The measure, renewed by voters in 2006, includes funding to help provide improved transit amenities at the county’s busiest bus stops.

This week’s award of funding for bus-stop improvements is part of OCTA’s ongoing investment in communities where there is the greatest demand for public transit. Santa Ana, which has some of the county’s most heavily used bus routes, applied for the competitive funds and will work with OCTA to implement the upgrades.

“A big part of our mission is provide our bus passengers with a safe and enjoyable experience that encourages them to ride public transit, and these local sales tax funds will help significantly enhance the experience for OC Bus riders,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove.

Funds will be used to make improvements at 35 of Santa Ana’s bus stops, including several popular routes along Bristol Street, 17th Street and Harbor Boulevard, among many other locations throughout the city.

The improvements include replacing existing shelters (from rain and sun), benches, trash receptacles, advertising cases and making necessary improvements to concrete at the stops.

While bus stops throughout the county are located on city property and maintained by individual cities, OCTA works in partnership with those cities to determine the best locations for stops and provides competitive funding for improvements.

To date, the OCTA board has approved more than $3.1 million for similar bus-stop improvements throughout Orange County.

September 10, 2020

News
OCTA Innovating to Keep Public Informed During COVID-19

The agency has shifted to virtual meetings and other technology to update residents living near its various construction projects

ORANGE – While millions of Californians heeded state orders to stay home to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), construction on public transportation projects continued, leaving the Orange County Transportation Authority to answer the question: What’s the best way to communicate construction updates to the thousands of residents living near its projects?

On the I-405 Improvement Project, the largest highway project under construction in the state, the COVID-19 pandemic forced OCTA to think creatively about how to best reach the diverse communities along the 16-mile stretch of project while ensuring the health and safety of employees and the public.

Traditional communication methods, including hosting information booths at community events, hosting in-person neighborhood meetings and canvassing fliers to residents’ homes, was no longer a viable option. But OCTA wanted to do more than relying on the project’s website, mobile app and social media presence to keep residents living in nine different cities throughout the project area informed.

Less than a week after the state issued its stay-at-home order in March, the I-405 Improvement Project hosted its first ever virtual neighborhood meeting to update residents living near major upcoming construction. The meeting was similar to the dozens that had been previously held, except instead of being at a community park, school or meeting room, residents were able to have their questions answered from the comfort and safety of their own home.

Since then, the project team has hosted nine additional virtual community meetings, directly communicating with nearly 450 people live. The meetings are all recorded and available online and have generated more than 2,000 views.

I-5 South Team Goes Virtual

The outreach team focused on improvements being made to I-5 between El Toro Road and SR-73 in South Orange County also converted its typical approach of chatting with residents over donuts in local neighborhood parks. Instead, they also quickly set up virtual meetings.

At first, they held a virtual meeting and discussed the entire 6-mile project, but quickly discovered it was a bit too much information for many residents who wanted detailed information about the freeway bridge near their house or whether there’d be a sound wall in their neighborhood.

So, they switched to “Webinar Wednesdays” that focused on smaller segments of the project.

And the I-5 South team looked to see how TV entertainment shows engaged viewers while going online. Using that example, rather than having just one presenter talk to the camera, they decided to have two presenters from the project team interacting.

One acts as the host for the meeting, welcoming the audience and explaining how it will work, then allows the other to present the information. The host asks follow-up questions and sometimes even jumps in to ask for clarification that the audience might want to know.

The I-5 South project team also focused on branding by always wearing button-up shirts that prominently featured the project logo when on camera. Otherwise, they limited branding, keeping it informal and presenting from their homes, with books, photos and artwork in the background.

The approach intended to send a message: Thank you for letting us come into your homes (virtually) for the presentation – from our homes to yours.

The team found that the team approach from home led to more engagement and more informal questions from viewers – as if they were still just chatting over donuts.

When completed in 2025, the I-5 South project will add a regular lane in each direction of the freeway, extend a second carpool lane, widen bridges and make other improvements to ease traffic congestion for approximately 360,000 drivers who use that part of the freeway daily.

Technology Helping Find the Right Audience

In addition to the virtual events, OCTA began using geofencing campaigns to target hundreds of thousands of residents and commuters that live and drive through specific areas of the I-405 Improvement Project.

This method of advertising allows OCTA to select a 1-mile radius near major construction work. If someone enters that zone with their smartphone, laptop or tablet, they will begin seeing construction alerts on their favorite apps, including ones like Waze or Pandora.

To date, the project team has completed six of these advertising campaigns, reaching nearly 700,000 people.

Moving forward, as restrictions continue to ease, OCTA will continue to build on the success of these virtual outreach efforts as a convenient way to keep the community up to date on its many projects and programs.

The $1.9 billion I-405 Improvement Project will add one regular lane in each direction between Euclid Street and I-605, and a second lane in each direction in the center of the freeway from SR-73 to I-605 that will combine with the existing carpool lanes to form the 405 Express Lanes.

For more information about the projects, visit octa.net/405improvement and octa.net/i5south.

July 16, 2020

News
OCTA Meeting Major Transportation Milestones Despite Pandemic Challenges

2020 mid-year report shows continued delivery of essential capital project improvements and public transit services

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority is pushing ahead through the many unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and continuing to keep its promises to deliver a balanced and sustainable transportation network for Orange County.

The OCTA Board of Directors this week received a mid-year report on the status of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer Initiatives and Action Plan showing that the agency has met 41 of 92 milestones for 2020 through the first six months of the year.

The milestones achieved have included advancing projects promised to voters through Measure M, the Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. Among them are important freeway improvements on the I-405, I-5 and SR-91, continuing to build the OC Streetcar, funding street improvements and enhancing the OC Bus system.

“While there’s no question that we, like public agencies everywhere, have faced enormous challenges with the ongoing public health crisis, I think this report is further proof of the tremendous effort of our agency to work through those obstacles and continue providing essential services for Orange County,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove.

The milestones, first approved in January, were adjusted slightly in May in response to the pandemic, resulting in the 92 milestones.

Each January, the OCTA board and CEO work together to prioritize goals for the year and develop and action plan to ensure progress toward those goals.

This year that includes:

Board Initiatives

  • Comprehensive Mobility Solutions
  • Regional Leadership and Public Transparency
  • Resiliency, Sustainability and Innovation
  • Fiscal Accountability
  • Organizational Excellence

CEO Initiatives

  • Enhance Transit Service Quality and Customer Experience
  • Deliver OC Go – Next 10 Plan Commitments (Measure M)
  • Collaborate with Local and Regional Partners
  • Ensure Public Accountability and Transparency
  • Advance Climate Resiliency and Sustainability
  • Promote and Deploy Innovative Technology
  • Champion Fiscal Responsibility
  • Strengthen Safety and Security Measures
  • Develop and Maximize Workforce Potential

The initiatives and milestones will be reviewed again by the board this fall. Information: www.octa.net.

June 24, 2020

News
OCTA Sets Course for All Zero-Emission Buses by 2040

Plans are in-line with state mandate, as OCTA continues to test hydrogen fuel-cell electric and plug-in battery-electric technologies in two pilot programs

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority board has approved a draft plan outlining how the agency will convert the OC Bus fleet to 100 percent zero-emission technology by 2040.

It is a milestone step toward zero-emission transportation technology for a balanced and sustainable future – one that will help bring even cleaner air quality to Orange County.

“This is a great opportunity for us to plan for a healthier future that will include both reliable transportation and no potentially harmful emissions into our environment,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “We are accomplishing two important goals at the same time.”

OCTA has already gradually transitioned its fleet over the years, from diesel-burning buses to clean-burning renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) buses with near-zero-emission engines. The state has set a requirement to transition to complete zero-emission transit within the next 20 years.

OCTA’s zero-emission bus rollout plan, approved by the board of directors on Monday, will now be submitted to the California Air Resources Board.

The plan is not a commitment to a specific type of technology at this point. OCTA is in the process of testing both hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses and plug-in battery-electric buses to determine which technology best meets OCTA’s needs related to operations, maintenance and cost, among other things.

In April, the OCTA Board of Directors approved a request for quotes to purchase 10 plug-in battery-electric buses.

The pilot program for the battery-electric 40-foot buses comes following OCTA’s debut at the start of 2020 of 10 new hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses.

Those hydrogen fuel-cell buses, which also create zero emissions, began operating in January, when OCTA debuted its hydrogen fueling station in Santa Ana. In all, it represented a $22.9 million investment. More than half of that funding – $12.5 million – came from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Testing both hydrogen fuel-cell and plug-in battery-electric buses will allow OCTA to collect valuable data and to determine which technology – or the best mix of technologies – to pursue moving forward.

OCTA operates more than 500 buses in the regular OC Bus system across Orange County. For now, most of those buses run on compressed natural gas but OCTA is working toward the goal of producing zero emissions.

OCTA will begin phasing in the purchase of zero-emission buses as part of future bus procurements beginning in 2023. At the same time, staff will continue to analyze emerging technologies and work with partners to secure funding for purchase, operations and maintenance of the buses.

The effort aligns with California’s Innovative Clean Transit Rule, a first-of-its-kind regulation in the U.S. that sets a goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100 percent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. The Innovative Clean Transit Rule is part of the state’s comprehensive program helping to achieve California’s air quality and climate goals.

The hydrogen fuel-cell buses continue to be tested on routes throughout Orange County. The plug-in battery-electric buses are expected to begin operation in Orange County in late 2021.

June 11, 2020

News
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...