Orange County Branch Newsletter
History and Heritage
A Continuation: Recollections of Orange County’s Ebb and Flow of Infrastructure Development
By Carl Nelson, PE (retired) Photo credits: OC Archives
Part 2 of my recollections is sparked by the following headline and full page story from the OC Register on August 14, 2015:
“Kissing the War Goodbye…Changing California”
After the war Orange County’s population had doubled in the 1950s and would double again in the 1960s while world tensions continued to be chilled by the ongoing nuclear “cold war”. After the opening of I-5 Freeway, and concurrent with the previously described breakup of the Moulton Ranch, developers began acquiring portions of the other ranchos adjacent El Toro Road, the only cross road penetrating the South County between Laguna Beach and Orange (linked with Santiago Canyon Road).
During my career with the county, the Mission Viejo Company was recognized as one of the most congenial and cooperative of developers. Rather than awaiting Planning Department and Commission requirements, the Mission Viejo Company’s engineers (Jack Raub Co.) would lay out the subdivisions and access roads…then invite county planners to meetings for discussion. After review the company would refine their plans before submittal to the Planning Commission for approval. All infrastructure, would be completed without further County expenditures. By the early 1970s the company would rightfully advertise themselves as “America’s Most Successful New Town”.
Eventually with population growth, greater freeway access was needed. During the 1970s the Mission Viejo Company would initiate and participate financially in the construction of new freeway interchanges at Alicia parkway and Oso Parkway.
After formation of the Environmental Management Agency in 1975, the first County Road funding need in Mission Viejo of which I have recollection was for a widening of Marguerite Parkway near Saddleback College. Although the arterial road had been pioneered entirely at private expense from Avery Parkway in the south to Portola Parkway in the north (a distance of 10 miles) there remained a half-width portion of Marguerite near the burgeoning Saddleback College campus where no housing developments were impending. Hence, the Board of supervisors agreed with expending county road funds for the arterial widening to Primary Highway Standards from Crown Valley Parkway to Oso Parkway.
Regional rush hour traffic continued to grow despite Caltrans widening of I-5 and the 405 interchange in Lake Forest. In the 1980s, a new political solution to regional transportation needs came with the formation of the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA). This was a partial remedy of the problem created by deletion of the Coastal Freeway (CA-1) from the State Highway Plan as requested by the cities of Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. Financed with Revenue Bonds that would be repaid with user tolls, the TCA constructed the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road running south from I-405 in Costa Mesa through Irvine and Laguna Niguel to a junction with I-5 in San Juan Capistrano and bypassing the city of Mission Viejo. Since completion of construction Caltrans has provided Toll Road maintenance.
For a much more detailed history of Mission Viejo’s development, ASCE members might enjoy reading; Mission Viejo: The Ageless Land From Prehistory to Present by Doris Walker, 2005; available in Orange County’s local libraries.
The ASCE OC Branch History & Hertiage and Student Night is November 19th at a FABULOUS new venue - the Heritage Museum of Orange County! Please click here for details and registration information.