By Eric Heinz
The May 10 meeting of the Joint Board of the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) revealed the tense nature of the issues regarding the potential construction of a toll road through San Clemente and South Orange County.
Between the dozen or so public speakers, a director getting into an argument with one of the speakers and constant finger-pointing rhetoric from the dais all but foreshadowed that this issue probably won’t be solved by the powers that currently be—they’ve been at this for more than two years and faced off against one another in past decades, and in all cases, both sides have presented wildly conflicting data.
Two boards combine to make the Joint Board, the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) and the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency (SJHTCA). Directors are City Council members appointed to the boards by their respective cities.
At the May 15 San Clemente City Council meeting, city attorney Scott Smith made note that the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, May 22 will vote on whether to keep the 241 extension (the mouth of the toll road that is proposed to go through San Clemente) in its transportation master plan, as the city and the TCA settled on a portion of an ongoing lawsuit related to the proposed roads.
TCA Joint Board Criticizes San Clemente’s IBI Study Presentation
THE LATEST: IBI Group representatives came to the TCA meeting on May 10 expecting a cold welcome, and that’s what they received.
The IBI study is awaiting San Clemente City Council approval before the detailed data collection, methods of the study and more statistics are published. In March, IBI presented its overall findings regarding The Toll Road estimated traffic in South Orange County. It showed constructing a toll road under the TCA’s proposals would have little to no effect on traffic.
When the city’s study results were presented to the TCA on Thursday, most of the Joint Board was not satisfied with the presentation.
Fred Minagar of Laguna Niguel and the chairman of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency said he would rather examine the study when it’s completed and approved by San Clemente, but he also said there were many details of the study that, citing his 35-plus years’ experience as a traffic engineer, he would like to see included.
WHAT’S NEXT: IBI officials said they would present the final draft of their traffic study when it is published and accepted by the city of San Clemente.
Coalition to Save San Clemente Files Lawsuit against TCA’s Oso Bridge Approval
THE LATEST: On Wednesday, May 9, the Coalition to Save San Clemente (CSSC) filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court asking the court to order the TCA to revisit public meetings regarding the Oso Bridge project, which is the gateway to construct the 241 southbound.
“The suit alleges that the defendants failed to provide adequate public notice and opportunity for the public to comment prior to issuing approvals for the Oso Bridge project that will connect the 241 Toll Road to Los Patrones Parkway,” a press release stated. “The suit also alleges that the Bridge Addendum was never formally approved by Transportation Corridor Agencies or Caltrans.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The objective of the lawsuit, according to the Coalition, is to have the Oso Bridge project approval ruled as void and to stop any other projects related to the bridge until compliance, in its view, has been reached.
Toll Road CEO Receives 5-Year Contract Extension, Raise
THE LATEST: Some considerable objections to giving a raise and contract extension to Mike Kraman, the CEO of the TCA, were met with rebuttals of praise from the agencies’ board members for the work he’s done in the last four years.
The Joint Board voted, with directors Kathy Ward and Steve Swartz of San Clemente and Brian Maryott of San Juan Capistrano dissenting, to extend Kraman’s contract for another five years and approved an annual raise of 6 percent from his 2017 base salary.
Kraman’s base salary at the time was $249,600. According to Transparent California, his entire compensation, including benefits and retirement, was more than $416,000 in 2017.
Although the city representatives from municipalities in the crosshairs of the TCA’s new toll road proposals said Kaman has been adversarial in tackling these issues, other directors said they wouldn’t judge him for actions that were made by the board and not by the CEO.
WHAT’S NEXT: The board has the authority to terminate Kraman’s contract at any time, but as of now he is contracted through 2023. Kraman initially joined the TCA as a traffic engineer.
Spitzer Announces Opposition to Toll Road Idea 14 (Through-Pass)
THE LATEST: According to a press release from the office of Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer on May 11, the third district representative announced his opposition to Toll Road Proposal Idea 14, the proposal that would be constructed directly through San Clemente.
The press release did not state Spitzer was opposed to any of the other seven proposals of traffic relief (four of which are for toll roads) still being studied by the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), which administers The Toll Roads.
The release said Spitzer believes this specific toll road would “negatively impact San Clemente,” the release stated.
Spitzer also serves on the TCA’s Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor board and the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). The areas where the proposed Idea 14 would be constructed is in OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s fifth district in the south.
WHAT’S NEXT: Via email communication through Spitzer’s office, he said he has not opposed any other alignments at this time.
Spitzer said his motivation to oppose Idea 14 was because of the massive amounts of public comments and emails he’d received from people in San Clemente.
“Supervisor Spitzer is looking at all options with an open mind, but he will not be voting on any toll road that disrupts communities,” his communications specialist wrote in an email.
Supervisor Spitzer emphasized the need for TCA to work with San Clemente in finding solutions and to remove Proposal Idea 14 from the table, his press release stated.