Toll road vote greeted with cheers


California is home to an exquisite collection of wildlife, and is also home to an impeding amount of freeway traffic. The current condition of the Interstate 5 freeway is unprecedented, including bumper-to-bumper traffic a majority of the time.

This leaves more cars on the road for a longer period of time, sending more vehicle emissions into the already polluted air. After the Transportation Corridor Agency explored a number of options to help relieve the highway congestion, the plan to extend the 241 toll road stood out as the most sensible.

“There were 38 different alternatives, including widening the I-5,” said Transportation Corridor Agency spokesperson Jennifer Seaton. “It would give the best traffic release results with the least amount of environmental impact.”

Widening the I-5 would result in the loss of up to 250 businesses, 830 homes, and 4,000 jobs in the surrounding area, according to TCA.

This 16 mile, $875 million addition to the toll road would connect from the end of the 241 in Rancho Santa Margarita, and run along the coast until connection with the I-5 freeway near Camp Pendleton. This appeared to be a solution to help relieve traffic, but it does not comply with California state laws regarding coastline wildlife.

“It breaks a promise with the public,” said Surfrider Foundation executive director Jim Moriarty. “It sacrifices public access to the state park.”

The San Onofre State Park, which was established by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, would also be negatively affected,, meant to be utilized by the public for recreational purposes. The road would destroy the habitats of nearly a dozen endangered coastline species, including the Southern Steelhead Trout and the Pacific Pocket Mouse.

It would also run along San Mateo Creek, disrupting sediment deposits into the ocean at Trestles beach, altering the world-renowned surfing conditions.

This toll road affects not just the environment, but those who enjoy it. Approximately 2.4 million people visit trestles each year, including Saddleback students.

“The only reason I don’t go insane is because I can get away from it all and go surfing, but of course the only place that is free is in danger because a bunch of greedy people want to slap a 6-lane toll road through a beautiful state park,” says Saddleback student Branden Carter, 21, computer science. “In exchange for a few less minutes of driving they will cause more pollution to run off into the ocean and destroy the beach that many of us have come to love.”

The debate for the building of this road is still undecided, leaving many decisions regarding permits and environmental laws in the air.

On Feb. 6, a California Coastal Commission meeting in San Diego rejected TCA’s proposal with and 8-2 vote, saying that the project did not comply with the Coastal Zone Management Act and California’s Coastal Act. TCA must now attempt approval by bringing the project proposal to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

While traffic release is important to California residents, the environment is as well, and future decisions will determine the outcome of this highly debated project.

ENDLESS SUMMER (David Quesada)

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