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OP-ED: The 241 Extension is Needed in Some Form

The Toll Roads Agency says the 241 extension is right and necessary; most stakeholders say something needs to be done about traffic.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jeff Bott is a spokesman for the Foothill/Transportation Corridor Agency.

The California Coastal Commission’s decision against the proposed alignment to complete State Route 241 didn’t change the need for traffic relief. 

seem to be frustrated by the continued effort to find a solution. But commuters, business leaders and just about anyone who has been stuck in I-5 traffic–especially on the weekends– understand and appreciate the need for traffic relief in and through San Clemente.

The Foothill/Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) is a joint-powers agency formed in 1986 to manage the planning, financing, construction and operation of State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261 (The Toll Roads). We are a not-for-profit agency, building public roads with private dollars. The roads are deeded to Caltrans and are state highways.

Like any responsible organization, we set out each day to accomplish our missions, serve our customers, and finish what we start. If people thought the completion of SR 241 was dead, then that was because of their own misunderstanding and no declaration or insinuation made by us. 

The recent ads, door hangers, press release and update of RelieveTraffic.org weren’t the launch of  It is the continuation of an ongoing outreach program we’ve been conducting since early 2009. We’ve held more than 200 meetings with individuals and organizations–stakeholders, supporters and opponents--and most tell us something has to be done about the current and future traffic on I-5.  Traffic is a problem because it impacts the ability to get to work, do business, get to school, visit friends and family and most importantly, get home.

And the unpredictability of the traffic on I-5 increases this concern and the stress.

The 241 completion project has become a “They said, They said” sort of dividing topic. That is unfortunate, because smart decisions about our land, our environment, our freedom to go where we want to go and our future should be based on facts, not emotion. 

San Clemente is an anomaly when it comes to its roadway alternatives. Just about every other community in Southern California of significant population has redundant transportation corridors. Whether it’s the 22 and 91 freeways, the 405 and 5 freeways, the 133 and 55 freeways, parallel routes provide alternatives, which are imperative in an emergency.

There is no major alternative route to the I-5 in San Clemente today. And no, PCH is not a major alternative route. And neither is the –that is a local infrastructure improvement project and the 241 is a regional one.

Both are in the County’s transportation plans and both are considered needed by other transportation agencies.

The reality is that personal vehicles won’t be going away anytime soon. Whether future automobiles run on gas, electricity, corn oil or banana peels, roads will be needed. Especially in Southern California, which has no centralized “hub,” cars will be the transportation choice for the vast majority of people and roads will be necessary.

But, it should be noted that the wide medians in the toll roads provide flexibility for the future. That means that multimodal transportation such as buses or rail or other rapid transit alternatives could be included in the plan.

Some clarity is needed regarding TCA’s “non-compete clause” that has served well as a catch-all excuse for the lack of transportation improvements on the I-5 freeway and San Clemente city streets.

The non-compete clause is strictly between TCA and Caltrans and was included as financial protection for bondholders who invested in Orange County’s infrastructure at a time when the state didn’t have the funds to build these needed highways.

This is money the state still does not have today.

The non-compete clause does not prevent Caltrans from widening or improving the I-5 freeway if it is necessary for public safety. Furthermore, all freeway improvements or lanes on the county’s master plan–including, for example, the carpool lanes that are about to be constructed to Avenida Pico–can commence immediately and are in no way subject to the non-compete clause. 

Today the non-compete clause serves only as a convenient boogeyman to many of those who oppose the completion of the 241. It has not stopped any project from moving forward.

I talk to people who live, work, and visit San Clemente almost every day.

Yes, some are opposed to the project. But many are concerned about the future and wonder what it will be like to live in San Clemente if nothing is done about the traffic on I-5. Most people I talk to agree that it is smart and logical to have a second major route in and out of the area.

To pursue a workable alignment to complete the 241 is not alarmist, it just makes sense and is the right thing to do.

Cartoman May 26, 2011 at 11:40 PM
This is all about money, not about traffic, and certainly no about San Clemente. The TCA has to keep going on this road to justify their $200k salaries. There model is promote, build, and then ditch their crappy roads leaving the taxpayers and bondholders holding the bag. The longer it takes the better as it preserves their existence. The politicos on the board benefit by billing the TCA for attending their mindless meetings about failing highways and for occasional junkets to DC and conventions, all on someone else's dime.
Flyonthwall May 27, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Word on the street is that the TCA masterminded last years "grenade on the freeway" incident for demonstration purposes and to instill fear as a marketing tool. How do you think they got all those awesome pictures of the jammed freeway from all the right perspectives with the San Clemente city sign in the background?
Steve Netherby May 27, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Fix the 5. Literally and figuratively, the toll roads are a bankrupt idea. You've been told no, TCA, by the Coastal Commission, the Department of Commerce, the Marine Corps, commuters unwilling to pay your fees, and thousands of citizens who believe our open space, our State Parks, our land conservancies, our beaches, and our quality of life trump your concrete. Your bonds aren't junk bonds by accident: They reflect the quality of your destructive idea. Recreate yourselves as a true transportation solutions agency and integrate mass transit with your existing roadways.
Maria Brophy May 27, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Please, toll road people, GO AWAY. You're not wanted around here.
Gary Headrick May 27, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Fix the 5, invest in good public transportation and quit trying to shove your propaganda down our throats with the same old ideas that we put to rest a long time ago.

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