By Eric Heinz
Since a settlement was reached last year between environmental organizations and the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) to not build a toll road through environmentally sensitive areas, alternative routes have been provided by the TCA, and some are still designed to go through San Clemente.
The City Council on Tuesday, March 21, voted to send a letter to the TCA opposing all toll roads that go through San Clemente, but they wanted to advocate for options that expand and create an arterial route that connects I-5 to Ortega Highway from a middle section between Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano (estimated by the map) and consider extending La Pata to Cristianitos Road.
These wouldn’t necessarily be toll roads, Mayor Kathy Ward said. Instead, she said they should be arterial ways and not additional highways. However, Ward said, that means the TCA wouldn’t pay for them because their money is tied to creating toll roads.
One route would travel through the open space that winds down from the northwest portion of San Clemente and snakes down toward the I-5. Two other routes would likely increase traffic in the Shorecliffs neighborhoods by connecting together at or near the Camino de Estrella exit.
There’s another option that’s not on the TCA maps that City Council thought could be feasible: a “South County beltway,” which, in theory, would create roads that would circulate between the 241 and the 73, making east-to-west mobility easier.
Studies were done on this in 2008 but it was not found to be feasible by Caltrans. City Council voted to put in the letter that they would like to have this reconsidered as an alternative.
The settlement last year guaranteed that no toll roads would be built through the San Mateo Watershed and other environmentally sensitive areas and required the TCA to establish a $28 million conservation fund to help with watershed improvements.
City Council members said they want to have a meeting with TCA officials in the near future to discuss which routes will be studied and considered.
“I think this is the time for the community to come together, essentially a call to arms, to oppose the toll roads,” Council member Chris Hamm said. “I’d hate to see us pit neighbor against neighbor. We need to oppose all of these options.”
“The only way to understand this is to dissect each alternative that’s been proposed,” Council member Tim Brown added.
A full map of the TCA proposals is available at www.san-clemente.org under the Government tab. Click City Council and Agendas under 3-21-Revised agenda.