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Controversial Foothill Toll Road Plan Reemerges

The agency that operates toll roads in Orange County, the Transportation Corridor Authority, is re-applying for a water quality permit to build part of the controversial “Foothill “ corridor. The agency argued that, if completed, the toll road would be an alternative to Interstate 5 in and out of San Diego County.

A controversial toll road to ease traffic between San Diego and Orange County drew crowds at a hearing today in Costa Mesa.

Proposed Toll Road rejected in 2008 by California Coastal Commission

The full 16 mile road, which includes a section that would run through San Onofre State Park, was rejected by the California Coastal Commission back in 2008. The 5 mile section before the regional water quality control board today is north of the San Diego County line and would connect Highway 241 to near the Ortega Highway.

Damon Nagami of the Natural Resources Defense Council testified against the project at the hearing. He said 7,000 people attended California Coastal Commission meetings to oppose the project when it was originally proposed, and the Federal Department of Commerce agreed with the commission’s rejection of the road.

“The chair of the Coastal Commission at the time, Peter Douglas, said that this project was the most inconsistent with the Coastal Act that he’s ever seen,” Nagami said. “So we’re trying to prevent this road from going through, disguised. It’s the same project but segmented into pieces.”

The section of the proposed Toll Road back on the table

Nagami said it is illegal to divide the project into sections and get permits for one section at a time.

Lori Olin of the Transportation Corridor Authority said the five mile section of road is a stand alone project that will benefit new developments in San Juan Capistrano and people commuting west from inland areas.

An alternative to building the rest of the toll road to accommodate increasing traffic in coming decades would be to widen Interstate 5 and expand mass transit. However Caltrans has estimated that would cost more than $2 billion and affect hundreds of homes and businesses.

If fully built, the road would be the final piece of Orange County’s planned 67 miles of toll roads.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board is expected to vote on a permit for the five mile "Foothill "section, known as the Tesoro extension, in May.

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