"Conceptual Plan" for Foothill-South (241) Toll Road Extension Draws Scorn and Confusion

Categories: 241 Toll Road

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Environmental activists opposed to the extension of the 241 toll road into South County are crying foul over the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies' (TCA) recently approving a conceptual plan for construction of the first leg of the project, alleging there was little public notice as previously promised.

But the TCA counters that proper advance notice was given, but the opposition groups misunderstood what exactly was being voted on.

The two sides have been waging public-relations wars against each other that seemed to crescendo with a federal agency's rejection in December 2008 of a proposed, 20-mile extension of the Foothill-South toll road, which would include paving over parts of San Onofre State Beach and ultimately connecting with the 5 freeway near Trestles beach, which is considered sacred to surfers.

Feds Kill Foothill-South Toll Road Proposal. Now What? Punt?

The TCA has developed a new strategy of building the extension in roughly 5-mile increments, with the first phase not yet reaching into the lands most considered environmentally sensitive. But owing to the mistrust on both sides of the issue, groups such as the Surfrider Foundation and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are leery of--and closely monitoring--all phases of the project.

These advocates have also gotten to know the opposition during the long development process, and they say they have been repeatedly reassured by TCA representatives that even with the least-controversial first leg, known as the "Tesoro Extension," there would be plenty of time given for public comment.

But on April 18, "at the end of a hastily arranged 'special meeting' that afforded virtually no prior notice or opportunity for the public to comment, the TCA board approved its plans to build the initial five miles of the 241 extension," reports the NRDC's Damon Nagami on his blog.

"By noticing and holding this critical meeting within the space of just a couple of days," Nagami notes, "TCA went back on numerous promises it made to our coalition and to the public that it would give prior notice and opportunities to comment on this project."

Nagami goes on to cite examples of these assurances in an argument that mirrors the one made the day after the meeting by Surfrider's Mark Rauscher on the "Save Trestles" blog.

"Previously, we were assured multiple times the TCA would hold public workshops and have an open comment period to take input on this project before approving. Instead, they put an agenda on the website with less than 48 hours notice, notified nobody, and then held a vote," writes Rauscher, who included past video of TCA Environmental Director Valarie McFall "explaining to community members last summer how there would be a lengthy process allowing the public to weigh in."

But Lori Olin, a TCA spokeswoman, says the activists have it all wrong this time.



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