About five years ago when he was the Mayor of Anaheim, Curt Pringle dreamed of a regional transportation center for his city — a place they named ARTIC which would be the Orange County station for the equally dreamy California High-Speed Rail system which would be zipping through town on its way to San Diego, or charging northward to LA’s Union Station (over, under or through some of the densest urban residential housing in California) and onto San Francisco and Sacramento.
The Mayor-for-hire, as he was known at Friends for Fullerton Future, or Master of the Universe as he was tagged last year at the union-funded Voice of OC, didn’t stop with just a $184 million train station that would partly be paid for by OCTA’s Measure M where Board Member Pringle sat for years. From concocted ridership projections, he fantasized that Disney patrons would be coming to ARTIC by the millions, but still needed to be transported to the Mouse’s
cash registers Main Gate, miles away from the bullet train, and on the wrong side of the 5 Freeway. Since Walt Disney already had a world-famous one, Pringle announced in 2007 that he too needed a MONORAIL for the Disney visitors. From his January State-of-the-City speech:
Also [at ARTIC] you can catch expanded Metrolink service, running 18 hours a day up and back through Orange County; a high speed connection taking only 20 minutes to Union Station in Los Angeles; a county-wide bus rapid transit system hub and even a new internal circulator, perhaps even a monorail system, which connects key stops in Anaheim with ARTIC as the hub. From ARTIC, this internal circulator might stop at the Honda Center, a Stadium sports complex, A-Town here in the Platinum Triangle, then the convention Center, and the Disneyland Resort Area.
By design, monorail and its guideways must be elevated on heavy pylons, so we’re thinking that someone clued Pringle in on the
issue that lifting and spanning that much steel, cement and train across about 1/4 mile of the 5 (and atop an active earthquake fault) might be quite the engineering challenge. We think he or someone in the inner-circle decided that his train needed a bridge across the freeway that needn’t be included with the potential costs of the dream.
Would Disney help pay for Curt’s dream? Apparently not: Will Disney pay for monorail beyond its parks? After all, in 2008 Pringle said his monorail would carry 2 million passengers per year, but perhaps Disney didn’t believe the projections, or didn’t want it competing with the $15/day parking on their properties that accommodated all the station wagons and vans which had been coming to their Parks since the 1950s.
Pringle caused his OCTA Board pony up plenty of money to study the dream, Millions goes to O.C. monorail proposal, so maybe that’s when it was discovered how much engineering it would take to lift and carry it across all those freeway lanes. Five years later, a “$66 million project builds a bridge along Gene Autry Way over the I-5 and is scheduled for completion by the end of November or early December” was announced in the OC Register: Road helping link Angel Stadium, Disneyland opening by end of year. This project was not to build Gene Autry Way — that was done years ago — this would only acquire the trailer park land and finish the west ramp, so we don’t know the full cost of the bridge and all the on and off ramps.
The Register story mentioned nothing of traffic studies, only the need for to finish Gene Autry Way to “relieve congestion” — only no one could say where it was. But Alejandra Molina also detailed the impact to the area off Haster St.:
…the smell of tar permeated a mobile home community and apartment complexes bordering the project on Haster Street as construction crews paved the road amid rows of new palm trees. Some 97 homes and four commercial properties were razed years ago to make way for the extension to Haster Street, about a half-mile west of the freeway.
Pringle’s people, and certainly his Public Works Director Natalie Meeks, knew it would be far easier to build across the 5 through a run down mobile home park full of low-information voters. SOAR‘s been coveting the removal of this low-rent collection of temporary housing for years, so part of their problem went away. And, neither would the trailer trash likely be showing up at a City Council meeting since no one had been shot.
We argue that traffic had nothing to do with the completion of Gene Autry Way. Rather, the ramps and bridge over the freeway was actually a foundation for the monorail that Pringle wanted so badly — a way to get this half-century old and heavy technology over an obstacle that by itself wasn’t technically feasible and certainly extremely expensive to span. Without the bridge, the monorail track would have been 40 to 50 feet in the air to cross the freeway which is also elevated in that area. Here’s a video on how extraordinarily design-intensive and laborious the Las Vegas Monorail was to build.
Our friend Cynthia Ward discussed this with us, and our contention that the project was really an engineered leg-up for Pringle’s train. She’s been busy doing research on other Anaheim anomalies, but did find time to pay a visit to Gene Autry Way on a recent Wednesday during evening rush hour (between 4:30 and 5pm). There’s no need for a written analysis or actual traffic count as her pictures tell the story. Her trip began eastbound from Haster Street and continued up the new ramp toward the 5:
The obvious question anyone would ask here is WHERE IS THE TRAFFIC? Who uses this roadway and bridge that must have totaled hundreds of million of dollars build? What justifies it? Is it only for the tour buses that now have a virtually exclusive
route off and on the 5 to bring patrons to the Disney Parks, Angels Stadium and Honda Center? But, as portrayed at right, there are already two separate on/off ramps built years ago, apparently to accommodate Disneyland. These exit/entry ramps are much closer to Disney’s parking and Main Gate than Gene Autry Way.
After he was termed out of the Mayor’s office and left the OCTA Board to continue with his more lucrative consulting gig, Pringle’s monorail finally died. Even with the foundation we believe was built for it, it still came in around $700 million –well over double the cost of the equally ludicrous $319 million streetcar system that Natalie Meeks championed after a $5+ million Alternatives Study that was conducted with OCTA money. But the question remains — why was all this money spent to build freeway ramps and a bridge for traffic that doesn’t exist?
Did Curt Pringle conspire with others, like Caltrans, to have this empty roadway and bridge built to support a future monorail across it? Was that the REAL justification for it? It certainly wasn’t traffic congestion thanks to Cynthia Ward and her camera.
Anaheimers, Measure M taxpayers and Orange County residents are owed some answers. Perhaps the Grand Jury needs to take a look at Pringle’s Folly.