It’s Back: 241 Toll Road Extension

The TCA has launched another campaign to try to get a new route for the 241 Toll Road extension, but it looks as if there will be another long and costly battle.

In what was thought to be a dead issue, the 241 Toll Road extension, like the mythical phoenix, is attempting to rise from the ashes.

When the California Coastal Commission voted the proposal down 8-2 because it is inconsistent with the Coastal Act, and when this decision was upheld by the U.S. Department of Commerce, it looked like the “fat lady” had sung.

The toll road lobby, however, with seemingly unlimited resources, launched another effort to sway public opinion with their outreach (code for propaganda) program.

In the Transportation Corridor Agency’s (TCA) eyes this new 241 Toll Road extension is justified because when the U.S. Department of Commerce denied the TCA appeal, it indicated an alternative route could be pursued.

The idea is to re-align the proposed Foothill South extension to an area that takes up more land in Camp Pendleton and less in San Clemente. The Marines are saying “no” to this new plan, but that does not deter TCA’s CEO, Tom Margro, who recently reassured local business leaders that plans to extend the 241 Toll Road from Oso Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita to San Clemente "are not dead."

“I think they want to keep pedaling the bike to keep their jobs, but I don't know where they're pedaling it to," she said.

TCA’s web site describes the current propaganda campaign as follows:

“An exhaustive stakeholder outreach program began in January 2009 and is ongoing. Meetings have been held with more than 125 organizations and individuals, including opponent groups, such as the Save San Onofre Coalition. Stakeholders agree that there is a growing traffic problem between San Diego and Orange Counties that needs to be addressed or it could grow to gridlock properties and damage the economies of the area.”

Their alarmist rhetoric calls the current situation a “Ticking Time Bomb.” Their cause has been boosted by the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan and citizens concerns regarding the safety of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) and the need for another way out of San Clemente in case of a disaster.

Is traffic in South Orange County a problem? Absolutely.

Is it a “ticking time bomb?” No.

The TCA presumes the 241 extension is the only solution to the traffic problems in South Orange County, as well as the only way a second escape route can be established in case of an emergency. The agency has used its considerable influence to stop other possible solutions to both the traffic problem and an escape route.

 One way to improve the 1-5 is to get rid of the current bottleneck caused by the narrowing of lanes in San Clemente.  This solution has been hampered by the current non-competition agreement between TCA and Cal Trans.

It requires Cal Trans to compensate TCA for lost revenue resulting from highway improvements that might compete with the Toll Roads causing the TCA to lose revenue. This onerous clause does not expire until 2020 making unplanned improvements to the I-5 almost impossible to achieve.

A major objection to the Toll Road Extension is that it is based on the premise that traffic will increase by 60 percent.

Let’s see, with $5- or $6-a-gallon gas, 28 percent of homeowners under water (owing more than the house is worth), and consumers spending less to pay off debt, it does not look like traffic will be increasing by 60 percent any time soon.

How obsolete is that study?

 One solution to find a third way out of San Clemente, a solution that the TCA dreads, is the. For 26 years, residents of Forster Ranch and Rancho San Clemente have waited patiently for the La Pata Extension. It looks as if this long delayed third way out of San Clemente is finally on track for some movement forward. 

To move on the $1.5 billion Toll Road Extension before the La Pata Extension is completed just makes no sense. Once La Pata is extended to the Ortega Hwy and the San Antonio Parkway, it should relieve some of the traffic congestion from the I-5, and more importantly, provide a new route out of San Clemente.

If the TCA insists on their propaganda campaign, will again form coalitions to fight the project. Other issues will no doubt surface regarding the environment, San Mateo Creek, Native American sites, Trestles, and the state park as the argument heats up over the new proposed Toll Road alignment.  The Marines will find strong allies as they try to stop this new incantation of the Toll Road Extension.  

The Toll Road is not dead. It is still in a coma on life support. 

Editors Note: Because of an administrative error, a number of edits have been made to this article since it was first published. The central points remain the same.

Adam Townsend May 12, 2011 at 04:24 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: According to the Toll Roads web site, "The non-compete clause allows for the construction of everything on the County’s Master Plan of Arterial Highways, including the construction of an HOV lane on the I-5 to Pico as well as the completion of La Pata. The non-compete clause also exempts all road improvements needed for safety reasons. The non-compete clause is only triggered when an unplanned road affects the ability of TCA to make its bond payments. Most important to note is that the non-compete agreements expire completely in 2020."
Sam La Sala May 12, 2011 at 04:42 PM
The Toll Road has had more reincarnations than Michael Myers, the evil character in the horror movie HALLOWEEN and its many sequels. It has been killed by the Coastal Commission, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of the Navy, the USMC, and like Michael, it's dead and doesn't to know it. In addition, TCA refinanced it's bonded indebtedness, has asked the federal government for a bailout, and its customer base is continuing to erode. The scare tactic TCA continues to use is that San Clemente needs another evacuation route if San Onofre melts down. If SONGS melts down all roads leading north and northeast are going to be so clogged that the only thing that will save us here in San Clemente is a Dunkirk-type sea borne evacuation. I hope the Navy's up to it.
Doug S May 12, 2011 at 11:22 PM
It appears that Mr. Barnes has an eye view with both eyes closed, he Mr. La Sala and their ilk again take facts & twist them to suit their whims. Exactly where does the 5 lanes narrow in SC, there is the extended on ramp lanes at Pico and Estrella but they end before the next streets. Why do you consider it propaganda, isn't that what you're selling when your post has a correction to the less than truthful (i.e. lies) part of your "patch" about the non complete clause. Also, why would you take the current economic mess and project that as never ending. Oh, you must have been selling, earlier this decade, the notion that home values could only go up, I wonder how obsolete your thinking is. As happened last time the extension came around. the coalitions, foundations and individuals will take partial, twisted and made up facts to make a point, they believe the truth shouldn't get in the way of a lie when you're in a NIMBY fight. Remember the Surfrider Foundation wants the metaphor to apply to all of us, they want us to be riding only bikes instead of riding in cars.
Pete van Nuys May 13, 2011 at 01:41 PM
An open letter to OC Supervisor, Pat Bates: Ms. Bates, good afternoon. I'm writing in the hope that with the financial challenges we face at all levels of government, you'll reconsider your support the Transportation Corridors Agency. When conceived in the 1980s this JPA and its ultimate business model at least made some sense as an experiment. Though the wisdom of tollways surrounded by a network of freeways appears lame on its face, at the time it seemed plausible that with the political gridlock in Sacramento we might find relief from the very real gridlock on our freeways through such a plan. However, when the 73 failed to hit its projections from Day 1, truly conservative leaders would have put the brakes on TCA. Instead-- we'll call it dogged determination-- the Supervisors and TCA's politicos doubled down. With the construction of the 241/261/133 we then had two agencies sucking $-millions out of developers, businesses, and home buyers. All that money going supposedly to ease traffic and advance commerce. The fact is, TCA's roads are among the least used of any in south county. Even in pre-2007 "good" times, these roads failed to make their bond debt in all but a couple of months. And we all know the bonds are junk. Instead taxes-- euphemistically called "fees"--- throw our money down that endless rathole. The date when these state highways will be freed to do the job they were intended for, moves farther into the future. continued.....
Pete van Nuys May 13, 2011 at 01:43 PM
letter to Supervisor Bates...... Ironically, the year after TCA's bureaucracy was spawned OC voters did what responsible citizens often do: decided to tax themselves to buy a genuine solution with Measure M. But even then TCA's defensive leaders used their political power to delay useful improvements that would bring genuine transportation utility to the people. La Pata and Portola are major arterial highways which would have been finished decades ago had TCA not sucked every last dime from the growing communities of Santa Margarita, Foothill Ranch, Ladera, and Talega. Now Tom Margrove and company are spending $10s-of-thousands to sweet talk us all again. To delay the inevitable bond defaults. To tunnel and scrape an even more expensive 241 South through the San Mateo watershed. To keep their anemic and useless agency alive long enough for them to collect their pensions. Measure M2 provides $-billions for improvements to the 405, improvements which are necessary in large part because the 73 will never carry the traffic it was designed for as long as it remains toll. As a member of the stakeholders MIS Study Group I recall we were told, point blank, that no scenarios could be considered-- no matter how sensible-- that involved dissolving TCA and/or freeing up their roads. continued.....
Pete van Nuys May 13, 2011 at 01:44 PM
letter to Supervisor Bates, pg. 3 Ms. Bates, I'm appealing to you now: Dissolve TCA. Negotiate with the bond holders. Work with OCTA on a plan to use those 405 improvement funds to pay off the 73 obligations. Free up the 73 and the 405 will run freely for years to come. Work with OCTA and Caltrans to connect the 241 to the 73 at the I-5 in San Juan and give foothill residents the utility they've been promised and denied for 20 years. And stop, finally, completely, all efforts to shove a superhighway where the vast majority of south county and San Diego county voters don't want one: the San Mateo watershed. Regards, Pete van Nuys
Mr Salty May 13, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Sam La Sala May 13, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Doug, The only kernel of truth in your post is that Surfrider wants us to ride bikes. If San Onofre melts down the residential streets as well as the arteries they feed into (e.g. Pico, ECR, Los Mares), as well as I-5 ( and including the proposed La Pata extension and the superfluous absurdity called the Toll Road) will be hopelessly gridlocked for hours. The only folks who won't "glow"in their cars as they sit stranded will be those who leave town via the trails on mountain bikes.
mary May 13, 2011 at 08:08 PM
One of the arugments in favor of the toll road extension: if we have a problem at San Onofre, we will be able to exit town by the 241. Helloooooooooooooo. The proposed on-of ramp in San Clemente will be at Pico. Where is Pico? One would have to travel TOWARD to nuke plant in order to get on the 241 to exit town. I don't know about you, but I am heading in the opposite direction if something happens.
Larry Corwin May 13, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Personally I don't know why any resident of San Clemente would support the toll road. There is really no benefit to any resident and a few unintended consequences. The argument it will improve traffic on the 5 in my opinion holds no truth. First, the thing ends southbound in san Clemente so clearly there is no south bound benefit. Northbound might assist a very few who travel to Foothill Ranch or Coto de Caza, but as a regular commuter to Anaheim, I see no benefit. I've heard people suggest that travelers from San Diego heading to Riverside might benefit but it seems to me they would likely start their journey on the 15 freeway instead of head west to head north to head east. Finally if San Clemente councilman Jim Dahl likes it, it must be a really bad idea.
Sharon Branigan May 13, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Sammy are you Leo's brother, from Hawthorne? I went to school with Leo. There is a reunion this summer for the 70-71-72 classes. Please contact me for info - srbranigan at cox dot net.
Sharon Branigan May 13, 2011 at 08:48 PM
The price of using the toll road is ridiculous. If they lowered the price to just $3.50 each way they would easily double the use. That would take some of the heat off of the 5. Plus it would save gas (OMG IT'S A GREEN ALTERNATIVE!) Why don't they at least give it a try? What they're doing now - NOTHING - isn't working. Who runs that organization- don't they ever stop and THINK?
Sam La Sala May 13, 2011 at 09:06 PM
I'm heading toward Catalina in a kayak.
Sam La Sala May 13, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Hi Sharon, I'm not related to Leo, but say "hi" to my La Sala namesake at the reunion. Have fun!
sunshine May 13, 2011 at 09:35 PM
don't forget that the police would open both sides of the freeway up for North bound travel. North bound from San CLemente would be the only open path, all 8-10 lanes...
sunshine May 13, 2011 at 09:35 PM
I will paddle on a surfboard


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