In the late 1960s soon after South Coast Plaza opened, there was a movement to split Orange County away from the Southern California Rapid Transit District, the predecessor to today’s LA Metro, the major operator of bus and rail service in Los Angeles. Henry Segerstrom was the chair of the Orange County independence committee that led the fight to “get out from under LA’s thumb.” The successful Orange County referendum spearheaded by Segerstrom led to a state law that created the Orange County Transportation District, which held its first board meeting January of 1971. Today it’s evolved into the Orange County Transportation Authority.
In the 1990s, Henry participated with other business leaders in leading efforts to pass Measure M, which would add a half-cent sales tax in Orange County to build roads, improve freeways and support rail and bus transit. County voters had twice rejected transportation sales levies, and as a reporter at the time put it, “are famous for pulling the plug on anything that hints at higher taxes.”
The referendum passed, resulting in more than $4 billion in transportation improvements over the 20 year life of the measure, including adding 192 freeway lane miles, improving 170 intersections and 38 freeway interchanges, and implementing Metrolink service in Orange County. Voters renewed the sales tax for transportation improvements in 2006 for another 30 years.