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La Pata Extension Still $9M Short; OCTA 'Optimistic'

The Orange County Transportation Authority consultant in charge of the planned $80-million La Pata extension said plans are in place to round up the last few million for the project.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the Orange County Transportation Authority was in charge of the La Pata project. It is actually a county project. It also incorrectly said Harry Persaud works for LSA, a consulting firm. He is a county employee.

The $80-million La Pata extension to connect San Clemente with San Juan Capistrano arterials is short $9 million.

The consultant to Orange County officials in charge of the planned two-mile stretch, partly through the Prima Deshecha Landfill, said the county and city are in the home stretch for securing funding.

"I can assure you, you will be here to see this project constructed," the county's Harry Persaud told the San Clemente City Council on Tuesday. "We do have a plan [to get the $9 million], and we're not very far from it."

But he said construction firms have been working for cheap because of the sluggish economy, and therefore the project could be as much as $5 million less than anticipated.

"Because I'm optimistic and we're in such a competitive bidding environment, I think we're closer than that," he said.

The city and county have already spent about $15 million on design and environmental documents, permits and other pre-construction necessities, Persaud said.

The construction is estimated to cost $65 million. Funding has been cobbled together from a number of city, county, developer and other sources, Persaud said.

Part of the way the county plans to make up the difference is widening the planned bike lanes along the La Pata extension, thereby making it elegible for $1 million in bikeways grant money.

The county and California Department of Transportation may also shift highway money around to pay for the extension, justifying the expense because it'll take thousands of cars off the 5 Freeway, which San Juan and San Clemente residents now tend to use as an arterial to move back and forth between the cities.

Persaud said the project may also be able to snag some extra Measure M transportation bond money and cash under the Corridor Mitigation Improvement Act.

"One we get that money, everything falls into place and we're ready to build a road," he said.

Residents and the San Clemente City Council have been pushing hard to get the La Pata project funded since the March 2011 Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster.

The new arterial route would effectively double the points of egress from town in the event of a nuclear incident at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

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