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San Clemente officials argue proposed toll road extension would cost $2 billion, make traffic worse

San Clemente officials on Wednesday struck back against proposals to extend a toll road through their city or adjacent wilderness areas, releasing a study they said shows the project would be a costly boondoggle that wouldn’t improve traffic.
The Transportation Corridor Agencies, which operate four toll roads in southern and eastern Orange County, is exploring several options for a new north-south corridor that could ease congestion on I-5 by connecting drivers to the 241 toll road.
The city already is challenging a lawsuit settlement the TCA reached in 2016 with environmental groups seeking to protect Trestles Beach, a popular surf spot just south of San Clemente.
At a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Tim Brown and Councilwoman Kathleen Ward announced results of an $89,000, city-commissioned study that concluded if the 241 is extended, by 2040 drivers would be traveling more miles and and experiencing more delays than if the project were not built.
“There are other alternatives that achieve similar mobility benefits to the 241 extension at a significantly lower cost,” said David Chew of IBI Group, which was hired to do the study.
City officials estimated the toll road extension would cost $2 billion; TCA spokesman Nico Melendez said the agency doesn’t have cost estimates for any of its potential road alignments.
A written statement from the toll road agency did not directly address the study’s conclusions, but said traffic delays on I-5 are expected to increase and that most South County residents want something done about it.
“Everyone except the San Clemente City Council is taking responsibility for planning for our future,” the statement said. “The Transportation Corridor Agencies has a mandate from its board of directors and the public to continue its efforts to find a balanced solution for improving our transportation infrastructure.”
But San Clemente officials scoffed at the idea the TCA is needed, aside from managing existing toll roads and paying off their debts.
“There is no demand for this expensive and divisive ‘toll road to nowhere,’” Ward said. “The time has come to ask for one transportation agency (OCTA) to control all transportation planning in this county.”
“The city of San Clemente is certainly entitled to their opinion, but I think every member sitting on the (agencies’ boards) has a different opinion,” Melendez said. “Currently TCA is charged with identifying traffic relief solutions and that’s what we’re doing.”
Brown touted that the study used Orange County Transportation Agency data and models to forecast traffic in different scenarios. IBI Group has also done work for the county and local cities including Laguna Beach and Santa Ana, and the Orange County Transportation Authority.
Source: Oc Register

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