By City Council member Chris Hamm
One of the biggest threats facing San Clemente is the potential extension of the 241 toll road through town. The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) is doing its best to divide our community and build another “Kings Highway.” We need to stand united as a community against all toll road options that divide San Clemente the way the I-5 has. Don’t be fooled by the TCA’s attempt to pit neighbor against neighbor by presenting options through different communities. We need to stand united to show them that we will not accept any new toll roads. If you live in San Clemente, you will be negatively affected by the construction of the toll road.
With the TCA’s settlement with environmental groups preventing the consideration of the alignment that would have run behind San Clemente from the Oso Parkway terminus to the I-5 just south of San Clemente, the TCA is pursuing other options. This is why it is important that our community unite to protect San Clemente.
Some people might point to the traffic on the I-5 as a reason to support the toll road. This is a farce. The TCA’s own numbers show a minimal reduction in traffic from the I-5 if the toll road is completed. Building a freeway junction in the center of town will not reduce traffic; it will worsen it. Once the I-5 widening is complete, coupled with the recently completed La Pata extension, we will see traffic decrease. The TCA has increased its toll fees a dozen times, which limits accessibility to only those who can afford it. The price to drive the toll road, combined with the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration hikes, will do little to solve traffic congestion. San Clemente residents will bear a painful burden if the toll road cuts through our town. It would change the quiet landscape, home values will plummet, and it will reduce sales and bed taxes resulting in general fund revenue losses.
Due to the settlement agreement, the toll road cannot be built around San Clemente. The following options are being proposed: Route 14 creates a flyover freeway shadowing La Pata, behind Target, crosses Vera Cruz and connects to the I-5 over the high-school fields at Pico (this is the most likely scenario). Route 13 and 17 create flyovers that follow the ridgeline north of Forster Ranch, cuts over Los Mares and flies down the center of the Shorecliffs Golf Course, connecting to the I-5 at Vaquero.
The City Council adopted a resolution opposing these proposed routes, and in a letter to the TCA we communicated that the only solution with the least impact would be to build out arterial roads. We urged the TCA to look at this solution because it provides the best benefits for mobility for South Orange County with the fewest adverse impacts. This would include a combination of arterial street improvements to extend Crown Valley Parkway to connect to the 241 toll road, construct an east-west arterial along the option 9 corridor and extend La Pata.
We reminded the TCA that prior analysis was conducted on option 9, which would provide an east-west connection between the 73 and 241 toll roads. This analysis demonstrated that this connection would provide regional mobility benefits, so we urged the TCA to consider this option in its environmental impact review of project alternatives. An east-west connection is similar to the “Beltway” alternative. As a result of the public and City Council urging the TCA to include in its process a greater effort to identify arterial solutions to traffic, the TCA agreed to do so at its last meeting.
Join me in opposing any new construction of toll roads—we need to start the conversation now. Together we can stop the construction of this unneeded, overpriced roadway. Learn more by visiting http://www.san-clemente.org/about-us/city-news/toll-road-information or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, attend City Council meetings, which will include status updates on this topic.
Chris Hamm is a San Clemente City Council member, who served as mayor in 2015. He was reelected to office in 2016.