Warning: Now Entering Orange County

David Reyes has a piece in the Times about plans to widen the I-5 from three to five lanes at the county line. Most surprising is the final paragraph, which might have warranted earlier mention:

In other business, Art Leahy, OCTA's chief executive, was given a 6% pay raise and one-time 3% bonus after receiving an excellent performance review. Leahy's annual salary is now $230,336.

Most amusing, however, is the meat of the piece--the announcement of a sign on the freeway to inform (warn?) motorists that they have crossed from Los Angeles to Orange County.

The freeway — a virtual Main Street of Southern California — is being widened and improved on the Orange County side of the county line. When the project is finished in 2010, the ride will become a brake-tapping experience for motorists when they hit the unimproved section in Los Angeles County. Now county planners are thinking of doing a bit of bragging to southbound motorists at the county line by putting out a $175,000 welcome mat. Think orange trees and swaying palms, and a sign saying "Orange County," a clear signal to travelers that life for commuters is a bit more relaxed this side of the Orange Curtain.

Hey everbody, we're going to get some orange trees back! I can't wait to bring visiting friends to see these new trees and tell them, sadly, that they are looking upon one of the last orange groves in the county.

Reyes reports a $35,000 project planning cost and a $140,000 construction cost, with a completion date in 2010. That means we still have time to try and influence this process. There's still time for something to be done.

What do I mean? A county motto, that's what I mean. A subheading, if you will. A phrase to add to the new sign. Something to stick in people's heads as they cross over from Los Angeles, and perhaps someday Riverside and San Diego as well. Something to function as an intensifier; an illustration. A warning?

So let's hear it, people - what are some of your ideas? I'll give you some options to get the juices flowing:

ORANGE COUNTY:


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