The first five-mile segment of a planned 16-mile toll road through south Orange County and northern San Diego County fails to account for a range of ecological and economic impacts, according to a lawsuit filed by the Save San Onofre coalition in May. The suit asserts that the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA)’s approval of the flawed toll road project is in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for not meeting basic environmental review, as reported by Surfline News.
Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League, said that “This illegal segment is a desperate attempt to perpetuate a project which is so contrary to the public interest. TCA’s existing toll roads are a financial disaster, and we shouldn’t throw good money after bad.”
The financial disaster was confirmed by the O.C. Register earlier this month, “The agency that operates the 241 toll road is refinancing $2.4 billion of outstanding debt, a move that pushes back its promise to open the road, free of charge, once the bonds that built it are paid off. The refinancing plan, approved 12-1 Thursday, extends the payoff date to 2053 from 2040.”
The Register also reported that “The Foothill-Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, which operates the 241, has received investment-quality grades for its debt from two major ratings agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s Rating Service. Both agencies gave the Foothill-Eastern the lowest grades that still qualify as investment-quality, one step up from junk.”
You can check out the board members of the Foothill-Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency here. They are an unimpressive lot, for the most part. You can also look at the board members of the FETCA’s sister agency, the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency, here.
The 241 Tesoro Extension is an independent utility and standalone project that will extend State Route 241 by five and half miles from its current terminus at Oso Parkway near Tesoro High School to Cow Camp Road near Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano, according to a Press Release.
This extension could be a real ecological disaster. In fact that is already happening with the existing toll road. Earlier this month “Caltrans workers Tuesday removed a dead mountain lion found on the shoulder of the 241 toll road,” according to the O.C. Register.
San Onofre State Beach Park is home to eleven threatened or endangered species, and attracts 2.7 million visitors a year. It is also home to the world-famous surf break Trestles, which by itself has been estimated to generate an annual economic value of $24 million to the nearby city of San Clemente. Numerous independent studies have challenged both the traffic alleviation effects and the financial viability of the proposed toll road.
“Building a toll road through a state park was a bad idea when it was rejected by the Bush Administration in 2008 and is a bad idea now,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation. “TCA is selling the public on a road that won’t alleviate traffic and will literally cut in half one of the most popular state parks in California.”
On June 19 (Wednesday) in San Diego, the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) will appear before the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board to learn if it will be granted the waste discharge permit needed to move forward with plans to construct the State Route 241 Tesoro Extension.