By John T. Tengdin, San Clemente
A chemical spill in San Juan Capistrano last month and in 15 minutes, the traffic was backed up to Camp Pendleton. Yet the surfers and greenies keep claiming that widening of Interstate-5 though San Clemente will cure our congestion and be the escape route out of town. At the now famous October meeting, the San Clemente City Council unanimously voted 5-0 to ask the federal government to extend the 241 Toll Road to I-5 as the vital added escape route in the event of a SONGS emergency.
Perhaps my idea might help the appeal: For just one segment of the escape route, the feds should provide the funding to build the 241 from the I-5 to Avenida Pico. That’s mostly federal or state land anyway, and it would, of course, be toll free to Pico. Even better, the route for this segment has already been approved by all four of the relevant federal agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration.
In return, the Transportation Corridor Agencies would build the link from Pico to Ortega Highway. Then, in the event of a federally declared emergency of any type, not just an event at SONGS, tolls would be waived for all vehicles passing through the toll plaza that will be just north of Avenida Pico.
The on and off ramps at Pico would be for emergency vehicles only under normal circumstances – to eliminate any extra traffic burden on Pico. Only in the event of a blockage on 241 between Pico and Ortega Highway would the exit ramp at Pico be opened to all traffic. And only in the event of a blockage of I-5 in San Clemente south of Pico would the south-bound onramp to the 241 be opened to all traffic.
Wouldn’t that be a win-win-win solution for the people: San Clemente’s residents, visitors and those using the new bypass around I-5’s weekend congestion; the federal government for a lower cost – as it’s shorter – escape route and the TCA – and future toll free users – not having to build that last link.

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