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Feds To Decide Fate of Toll Road

The fate of a controversial toll road project is now in the hands of the Commerce Secretary. The federal agency took testimony on the issue during a public hearing Monday in Del Mar that brought out m

Feds To Decide Fate of Toll Road

The fate of a controversial toll road project is now in the hands of the Commerce Secretary. The federal agency took testimony on the issue during a public hearing Monday in Del Mar that brought out more than a thousand people. KPBS Reporter Environmental Ed Joyce has details. (Story continues below)

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Last February the state coastal commission rejected the toll road project.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies, or TCA, appealed the decision to the Commerce Department - which held the public hearing.
     
Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante, chairman of the TCA, was the first speaker.

He says traffic continues to grow in Orange County and the toll road is needed to reduce congestion.

Amante: The project projects that Southern California will increase its population another 11.3 million by 2050.  And the population increases that are coming whether we like it or not impose enormous challenges for mobility for an area that's an economic engine for this nation.  We cannot bury our heads in the sand and wish the problem away.

Union workers say the project would create thousands of jobs at a time when the economy is in a downward spiral.  

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Many wore T-shirts that read "Less Traffic, More Jobs."

The road would cut through San Onofre State Beach Park - one of the last remaining coastal wilderness areas in Southern California.
 
Opponents say the road would block sediment that creates world-class waves at the Trestles surf break.
They also say it will destroy wildlife habitat and an ancient Indian burial ground. 

And it would set a bad precedent for the use of state park lands.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer says the toll road may pave the way for more congestion.

Lockyer:
This whole proposal is just a developer boondoogle. What they really want to do is open the last undeveloped valley between Central Orange County and San Diego to rampant, extensive development producing housing, commercial areas, more traffic and so on.

A decision on the appeal is due by January 7 and could come as early as next month.  

The Commerce Secretary has received more than 35,000 written comments on the toll road appeal.

The comment period closes next week.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

 

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