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Steven Viele, M.D., San Clemente
The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) and its paid propagandists would have us believe that building a toll road through San Clemente would benefit our town’s health. They say that by “relieving congestion” on Interstate 5, a 241 Toll Road extension would lead to a “decrease in dangerous pollutant emissions” that impact our health.
Is the I-5 really that congested in San Clemente? A one-month study we did on Sept. 17 showed that average commute times from City Hall to Mission Hospital during morning and evening rush hour traffic was 15.9 minutes, compared to a best commute time of 14 minutes. The average commute in the opposite direction was 17.9 minutes compared to a best commute time in that direction of 16 minutes.
These averages included weekends and a few days where accidents increased the commute times and they were done during a continued period of I-5 construction near the Avenida Pico interchange. There can be increased traffic at times during seasonal weekends, but no traffic studies (except the TCA’s) use weekend travel to determine traffic flow. You don’t build toll roads for a weekend traffic rush.
Even if the above were ignored, there is at least as much evidence that a toll road emptying onto the I-5 in San Clemente would increase rather than decrease our freeway traffic, as the I-5 immediately south of San Clemente can be a bottleneck during certain times.
More important than any of the above is the fact that a toll road would increase these dangerous pollutant emissions along the toll road route where there would be an extensive, multi-lane highway constantly spewing dangerous pollutants into areas where the vast majority of people spend far more time than on freeways or toll roads.
Compelling evidence suggests that people living, working and going to school near roads with heavy traffic have an increased risk of adverse health effects associated with exposure to mobile source pollution. Numerous epidemiologic studies have consistently demonstrated this.
In 2003, a California legislation prohibited building new schools within 500 feet of major highways and busy traffic corridors. Does it make sense for the TCA to build a toll road that will come as close as 100 feet to the Tesoro campus, close to several other schools, then fly directly over the fields of SCHS?