Friday, January 12, 2007

Gridlock on Great Park roads
Irvine Co. wants a traffic study, while Lennar Corp. says changes can be made after the Planning Commission OKs a street plan.


IRVINE Streets in North Irvine and Lake Forest could be gridlocked because of Great Park traffic.

To prevent that, Irvine Co. officials are demanding traffic be thoroughly studied before the roadways are built for the park and the surrounding Lennar Corp. development. The roadway plans - along with sewer, electrical and water lines - are up for approval at Thursday's Planning Commission meeting.

"I was dismayed Thursday night that the Irvine Co. felt they needed to say that," Bob Santos, division president of Lennar's development surrounding the Great Park, said.

Santos said initial traffic studies have been completed, and his firm plans to begin a comprehensive traffic study this year.

Still, some planning commissioners will take some convincing before they approve the roadway plans.

"I don't like surprises, and this is a big surprise. I feel like I've been duped," Commissioner Adam Probolsky said at the Thursday night study session of the roadway plans.

Probolsky said Friday that he is upset with the Lennar officials for not talking about the traffic conflict with the commissioners.

"My biggest concern is that it seems like Lennar decided to keep this silent and away from the officials," Probolsky said.

Lennar's Santos, however, says his company throughout the planning process.

Santos said Lennar and the Irvine Co. have also discussed the roadway plans for more than 10 hours in the past few weeks.

"What Lennar has is a totally new and unique process," Santos said. "The Irvine Co. officials are trying to put it into their normal process."

The conflict comes down to the North Irvine Transportation Mitigation Agreement - a study of traffic flows in Northern Irvine. Irvine Co. officials want the study completed before the first roadway is built.

"It's irrefutable that the study has not been done," said Mike LeBlanc, senior vice president of the Irvine Co.

He said Lennar has studied traffic only within the boundaries of the project area - not the project's impacts on surrounding streets, highways and freeways. The Irvine Co. has created much of what is Irvine from the old Irvine Ranch.

"What would be silly is for Lennar to put in all the roads and then find out they're all wrong and have to rip them out," LeBlanc said.

Santos said that would not happen.

"We don't understand why the study and roadway map approval have to be connected," Santos said. "If future studies show a need to add lanes to roads in our community there are conditions that require we do that."

Both Santos and LeBlanc have said they believe they can reach a solution before Thursday's Planning Commission meeting when the roadway map is up for approval. Several meetings have already been scheduled for early next week, both companies have said.

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