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By Eric Heinz
Dozens of residents from San Clemente and Rancho Santa Margarita attended the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) board of directors meeting on Thursday, April 13, in Irvine to oppose the 241 connection toll road proposals put forth by the entity.
Following the settlement of a nearly decade-old lawsuit between the TCA and several environmental organizations, the agencies’ staff members introduced revised alternatives and new options in order to continue the pursuit of a toll road through the southern-most areas of Orange County. The lawsuit settlement prohibits any TCA toll road from being constructed in the San Mateo Watershed, Trestles and other environmentally sensitive areas.
Of the 17 proposals discussed at the Thursday meeting, a few of them showed routes that could potentially go right through San Clemente, though the details of what the routes would look like specifically have not yet been determined.
The TCA is currently working toward establishing its next phases of environmental review for its proposals. Another update regarding the proposals for the 241 extension is expected to take place later this summer, officials said after the meeting.
San Clemente residents who attended were able to convince the TCA to consider the “Beltway” option, something that supporters said was discussed at length about 10 years ago. Proponents have argued for some time that a connection of the 241 and 73 toll roads would benefit traffic flow by taking stress off I-5, but it doesn’t necessarily address the TCA’s goal of improving north-to-south traffic.
The total number of proposals is now 18, including the Beltway.
People who spoke in favor of the toll road said there may be no other option to alleviate traffic problems.
Beginning in 2015, the TCA initiated a community survey to understand the traffic congestion concerns of residents of South Orange County and to see what routes would be favorable. Then in 2016, the TCA hosted a series of community meetings in Laguna Niguel and San Clemente to further the study.
These are the 17 Proposals.
Mayor Kathy Ward deployed another tactic during the meeting, stating that previous arrangements forbid the construction and improvements of the Oso Parkway bridge, a $26.2 million project located just north of Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, where the 241 ends. The strategy is if the terminus of the 241 cannot be improved, the toll road wouldn’t be able to expand.
Mike Kraman, CEO of the TCA, said that was not correct and that the board could approve the project, which it did later in the meeting, with Ward as the only vote in opposition.
At the end of the meeting, San Juan City Councilman Brian Maryott and Lisa Bartlett, 5th district Orange County Supervisor, said they want to study the routes in full before making a final decision.