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Proponents and Opponents of New Toll Road Clash at OC Hearing

Despite the Signage, a Union Official Claimed That No Members Were Paid for Attendance

Yesterday, Orange County Planners and Toll Road advocates had "their day in court" at a public hearing in front of federal officials who they hope will overturn a state decision stopping construction of $1.3-billion extension of California 241 in Orange County.  After the California Coastal Commission sided with opponents of the road stopped the project, which would cut through San Onofre State Beach, the state created Transportation Corridors Association appealed to the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to overturn the state decision.

Over 6,000 people attended yesterday's hearing, and the Times reports that the federal officials had difficulty controlling the crowd as the day was dominated by chees and boos.

The Save San Onofre Coalition charged in a press release that the 241 extension would cause irreprable damage to the local environment, especially some of the nations most beautiful beaches, and that any proposed traffic benefits will be more than outweighed the catastrophic damage to the environment.  Opponents also scoffed at the claim that the road would improve national security pointing out that the Marine Corps. is against the proposal because it would cut through Camp Pendleton.

In addition to the "usual suspects" of environmentalists and surfers, politicians and community leaders also arrived to testify against the project.  California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer; State Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San
Diego); Santa Monica Councilman Bobby Shriver; Irvine Councilman Larry Agran,
who as a TCA board member cast a vote against the proposed toll road
alignment; and San Diego Councilwoman Donna Frye all spoke against the road extension.

Proponents of the road argue that the Save San Onofre Coalition are lieing liars and represent a minorty of the residents of Orange County and San Diego.  Citing "overwhelming evidence," a press release attacked the "7 myths" that road opponents are using to attack the project.  These myths are:

Myth One -- TCA is running a six-lane road
through the park and beach.

Myth Two -- The road will ruin 60 percent of
the park.

Myth Three -- The road will ruin the camping
experience at one of the most popular parks in the state and one
dedicated to perpetuity by the late President Ronald Reagan.

Myth Four -- The 241 will ruin the surf at
Trestles beach.

Myth Five -- The 241 is permanent one of the
most environmentally destructive projects in California history and
will decimate endangered habitats.

Myth Six -- The toll road will do little to
alleviate traffic congestion.

Myth Seven -- Widening I-5 is the best

Joel Lautenschleger, Mayor Pro-Tem from Laguna Hills took on widening opponents head on when he charged that they don't care about job growth in the area.

"Given the desperate status of many
California families, it is more than troubling that the project
opponents seem to be gleeful about the economic crisis,"
he said. "They have seized on the economic
downturn and the increase in gas prices to claim that the project is not

Of course, the main reason to build a massive road expansion project is the belief that it will improve congestion on existing highways.  In California, politicians also claim that reducing congestion will "improve air quality" even though the amount of cars on roads has more to do with air quality than the amount of congestion.  Many experts on traffic growth charge that building highways leads to more rapid traffic growth in a region as illustrated in the example below by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.


Photo: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times

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