Wednesday, February 19, 2014

TCA Caught Red-handed Hiding Secret Contracts from the Public and Board Members.

Joseph Keppler

Okay, listen up, both toll road opponents and supporters.   Surfrider, and our Save San Onofre partners, have been accused of being “environmental extremists” by toll road developers, and we are amused as all get-out! 

And what is the TCA upset about?  They want to build a toll road through California’s 5th most popular state park – San Onofre State Beach.  The road would damage the park, recreational opportunities, and an undeveloped watershed.

Our position -– find good transportation solutions that don’t destroy this popular state park and important open spaces! I guess they consider everyone who disagrees with them an “extremist”!

Polling shows that Orange County residents and Californians statewide strongly oppose building the toll road through the park.  Does TCA think the majority of Californians are extremists?  That seems odd since parks are heavily used by families and generate millions of dollars for our local economy.

While we are amused, we are also slightly perplexed. 

Both President Bush’s Administration and the California Coastal Commission told TCA they can’t destroy the state park because there are viable alternatives to address traffic.  We’ve spoken to TCA officials many times about alternatives – but they just want to build their toll road through the park.

And TCA continues to throws fits about not getting their way – at the cost of millions of dollars of public funds.

At a recent TCA Board meeting, it was discovered that TCA CEO and Chairwomen Bartlett were literally ‘hiding’ contracts from the rest of TCA Board members and the public.  A handful of forward-thinking TCA Board members called Chairwomen Bartlett on the carpet—requiring her to justify such blatant misuse of power.  Here is her answer, as quoted in the Orange County Register:   

"[lobbyists] were hired to counter “environmental extremists” who she blamed for working to stop the toll road extension. “We have successfully deployed a legion of experts to counter unfounded environmental attacks on the toll road,” Bartlett said. “Now, some are undermining the will of (road supporters) by exposing our strategy.” 

Hmmmm….it seems like the TCA got caught doing something underhanded, and now they are trying to shift the blame.

So, what is TCA trying to hide?
  • TCA (Foothill Eastern) hid more than $220,000 in secret contracts to hire Sacramento lobbyists!  See the clip from TCA’s recent board meeting.  You can read in the Voice of Orange County.
  • Motorists will have to pay an additional $1.8 billion to bail-out TCA’s (Foothill Eastern) financial mismanagement and massive debts. See Orange County Register.
  • Even with this massive public bail-out, a leading rating agency still declared TCA’s (Foothill/Eastern) bonds as junk bonds.
  • TCA broke its promise to make the 241 toll-free in 2040.  Motorists will have to pay increasingly high tolls until at least 2053.
  • TCA (Foothill/Eastern) has wasted more than $300 million in public funding on their failed project – and they plan to waste another $21 million on their project this year.
Who knows what else they are hiding from public view?

If you ask us, TCA's behavior of keeping "secret contracts" and aimlessly trying to ram a road through a state park seems pretty extreme.

Isn’t it time for TCA to finally quit wasting millions of public funds?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Regional Water Quality Control Board DENIES TCA Permit to Construct Toll Road

On June 19th, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board voted 3-2 to deny the first segment of the 241 Toll Road extension.

During the standing-room-only hearing, Surfrider Foundation Chapter representatives, staff, supporters and Coalition partners took to the stand one after another to voice their opposition to the first 5.5-mile “segment” of the toll road extension. The project, which was proposed in 2011 just three years after the California Coastal Commission and the Bush Administration shot down the original alignment through San Onofre State Park, calls for the extension of SR-241 to be built in “segments” – five miles at a time. “Segmenting” is illegal under state and federal law.


A massive thanks to all our supporters who came out to the meeting. Your voice and presence made a huge difference in the outcome!  Also thanks to our San Diego and South OC Chapters for working so hard to organize the day!

As a member of the Save San Onofre Coalition, Surfrider Foundation has great respect and thanks for our partners at the Natural Resources Defense Council, California State Parks Foundation, Endangered Habitats League, Orange County Coastkeeper, Sierra Club, Audobon, WildCoast and the California Coastal Protection Network. Not to mention our fantastic team of attorneys at Shute Mihaly & Weinberger.  This victory could not have happened without all of their scientific, legal and political muscle.  This was truly a TEAM effort!

Watch this great recap of the day, thanks to San Diego activist Darren Kawasaki.


And see lots of photos of the meeting on Instagram 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Participation Guide and Talking Points for June 19 Hearing

Join us June 19th to help stop the TCA from building the first “segment” of their illegal toll road. We need hundreds of people to convince the Board to shut down this road once more!

If the first section of road is built, the “dominos” will fall and the rest of the road will be built down to San Onofre/Trestles.  

Surfrider is asking its supporters to attend the meeting at 1:00pm, and stay through the afternoon to demonstrate opposition to the road. Public comment will be taken shortly after 1pm. Here is a "Participation Guide and Talking Points" for the hearing.  

Contact Ssekich@surfrider.org or Mrauscher@surfrider.org with questions.  

Take five minutes to watch this video about our fight to Save Trestles.  Help us make an impact by attending the hearing on June 19th! 

WHAT: Water Quality Control Board
 Meeting regarding TCA’s permit for first 5 miles of road.
WHEN: Wednesday, June 19, 2013.  1:00pm
WHERE: Water Quality Control Board
 Meeting Room: 
9174 Sky Park Court
 SanDiego, CA 92123
WHY:  To stop the TCA from building the road in segments down to San Onofre/Trestles.  Bring your old Save Trestles shirts (we will have more shirts for sale). Surfrider will provide signs for you!   


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Water Board Hearing Logistics and Carpools


We have one week to organize hundreds of people to attend the Water Board hearing.  Help us spread the word!  

We are asking people to come at 1pm and stay for as long as possible.  Public comment (YOUR chance to speak) will begin after the Save San Onofre Coalition and the Toll Road developers give formal presentations. 

We will have materials for people to make signs.  Bring your old Save Trestles tee-shirts and we will have extra tee-shirts for sell.  We will be circulating talking points within the next few days.  

In order to make the trip to San Diego more affordable, relaxing and environmentally friendly, we are arranging buses and carpools at the following locations.  

LA Area:  Surfrider activists will have a small van and caravan leaving from the West side.  If you are interested in joining this party down to San Diego, contact ghamilton@surfriderwlam.org

OC Area:  Activists have rented a bus and are meeting at OC Dana Point Harbor in both of the Cove parking lots.  These are parking lots underneath Cove Road and at the very end of Harbor Drive near the Ocean Institute.  Arrive no later than 11 AM for 11:15 departure.  Please RSVP by Mon this, June 17th to Penny at greenp1@cox.net

SD Area: Activists are taking public transit. There is a regular MTS bus (928) from Fashion Valley Transit Center (click here for a timetable) with a stop right at Ruffin Road and Sky Park Court. It's only a 30 minute ride and there's always heaps of parking at the Fashion Valley Transit Center. Day passes are $5 on board the bus and good for the trolley too. North County folks can use Coaster to Old Town, buy day pass there, take the Green Line Trolley to Fashion Valley Transit Center and board the 928 bus there.

Hope to see you on June 19th

Friday, May 31, 2013

Attend Regional Water Board Hearing June 19 in San Diego.


 Trestles and San Onofre need your time on June 19th to help persuade the Regional Water Quality Control Board to deny the TCA’s permit to build the first “segment” of their ill-fated toll road.  In 2008, surfers and activists organized the largest turn-out for a public hearing in State history—and when the Coastal Commission saw 3,500 people in the audience, they were persuaded to deny the plan.  We need to do that again! This time, we need hundreds of people to attend the Board meeting on June 19th so we can shut down this road once more.

If the first section of road is built, the “dominos” will fall and the rest of the road will be built down to San Onofre/Trestles.  

Surfrider is asking its supporters to attend the meeting at 1:00pm, and stay through the afternoon to demonstrate opposition to the road. Public comment will be taken shortly after 1pm. 
 
Stay up to speed here and contact Ssekich@surfrider.org or Mrauscher@surfrider.org

Need some inspiration?  View this video of the Save Trestles campaign from 2008 when we first defeated the TCA. 

WHAT: Water Quality Control Board
 Meeting regarding TCA’s permit for first 5 miles of road.
WHEN: Wednesday, June 19, 2013.  1:00pm
WHERE: Water Quality Control Board
 Meeting Room: 
9174 Sky Park Court
 SanDiego, CA 92123
WHY:  To stop the TCA from building the road in segments down to San Onofre/Trestles.  Bring your old Save Trestles shirts and signs. We will also have tee-shirts and signs for you!   



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lawsuit Resurrected to Kill Zombie Toll Road

Back from the dead, a proposal to build the first segment of the 241 toll road was certified by the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency ("TCA") on April 18, 2013.  On May 22, 2013, a vigilant group of environmentalists, including Surfrider Foundation, resurrected our California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") lawsuit that challenged the original 16-mile toll road proposal in 2006.  The fight to Save Trestles has now moved to court again.

For over a decade, Surfrider Foundation has been opposing the ill-conceived plan to build the Foothill-South Toll Road, which was originally aligned to go straight through a senstive watershed and bisect a state park. Surfrider objects to the toll road's potential harm to water quality, endangered species and habitat, loss of state park land, and impairment to coastal recreational resources.  In February 2008, the California Coastal Commission ruled that the toll road was unacceptable for these reasons under the Coastal Act, after thousands of concerned citizens voiced opposition at the Commission hearing. The U.S. Secretary of Commerce also upheld the Coastal Commission’s decision after the TCA appealed in 2008.  However, in 2013, the TCA approved proceeding with the first 5.5-mile segment of this toll road, which does not enter the Coastal Zone (yet).  The environmental groups believe this is just the first part of the full toll road and that the TCA would like to start building now so they can gain political momentum for the full road.

To learn all the gory details about the lawsuit check out Surfrider's Coastal Blog article by our Legal Director Angela Howe.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Toll Road Agency Holds Secret Meeting To Approve Project

We learned last week that the TCA held a "Special Meeting" to approve plans for their so-called "Tesoro Extension," the first 5 miles of the 241 Toll Road that would end up paving over a large portion of San Onofre State Beach and connect with I-5 near Trestles.

Previously we were assured multiple times that the TCA would hold public workshops and have an open comment period to take input on this project before approving. Instead, they put an agenda on their website with less than 48 hours notice, notified nobody, and then held a vote.

Here you can see the TCA's Environmental Director Valarie McFall explaining to community members last summer how there would be a lengthy process allowing the public to weigh in.




This behavior, while not entirely unexpected of them, is outrageous!  They are clearly trying to bypass public scrutiny in order to get started building their previously rejected road. Thousands of people went to the Coastal Commission and Commerce Dep't meetings in 2008 to express their views on this project, but the TCA is now locking them out.

Not only is this the wrong way for an agency to conduct business, but the TCA is already on shaky financial feet (as recently reported in the LA Times) and have no real plan for getting out of their mountain of debt. Now, rather than listening to cooler heads, they make a unilateral decision to take on hundreds of millions more in debt in an effort to steamroll their way towards San Onofre and Trestles.

If you are disturbed by this behavior we encourage you to send the TCA an email with your thoughts.  Let them know that you are outraged at the lack of public input for the Tesoro Extension and that you wish to have the opportunity to weigh in on their plans.  Send your email today to clerkoftheboard@thetollroads.com


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Show Up March 13 to Stop the Toll Road (again)

We need your help!  Last week we told you how the TCA is trying to build the first 5 mile segment of the 241 toll road.  Many of you have sent letters to the Regional Water Board asking them to deny this foolhardy project.  Next Wednesday the Regional Board will have a meeting to decide that permit and we need you there!

If you live in southern California, come to the water board hearing next Wednesday, March 13th, at 9:00 a.m. and speak out against the toll road. The hearing will be held at

March 13th, 9:00 AM
Costa Mesa City Council Chambers
77 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626


You don't need to speak (unless you want to) but a strong show of support will go a long way.

We encourage you to arrive early if you plan to testify so you can fill out a speaker card. If  you don’t plan to speak, please come any time in the morning. TCA will give their presentation sometime after the meeting starts at 9:00; and an organized presentation from environmentalists will be given directly after TCA—followed by public comment (which is when you can speak).

Please wear either a blue shirt or an old Save Trestles/Save San O shirt for solidarity.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Toll Road Developers at it Again. Help Stop Them!


The TCA is like the game whack-a-mole.  No matter how many times you knock down those persistant-little-moles, they continue to pop up.  And so it goes with the TCA’s mistaken plan to build their road.  Yes, the same road that was rejected by the California Coastal Commission and the Bush Administration in 2008.  Since 2011, the TCA has been proposing to build the road in “segments”—five miles at a time. Surfrider has been writing about their misguided plans on our Save Trestles blog.  Of course, we are also working with the Save San Onofre Coalition to monitor their moves and strategically stop their plans.  

“Segmenting” is illegal under state and federal law. Not only does TCA’s plan circumvent important laws, this approach makes absolutely no planning sense.  The road would create a “cul-de-sac of traffic” for San Juan Capistrano and would actually end at a road that is not even built yet!

TCA’s segmentation plan= poor urban planning!

But here are two more kickers 1.), TCA doesn’t have any financial plans or environmental permits to build this “segment”, AND 2.) TCA is being investigated by the state of California to determine “the long-term financial viability of the agency” (via a government oversight panel chaired by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer,).

Despite not having any plans, money, or political support, the TCA blindly believes they can build their road in segments.  Clearly, The TCA is operating under the false assumption that public resistance to their road has died down.  Did they forget about the insurmountable community opposition that brought out thousands of people to attend state and federal hearings in 2008?

The TCA recently filed an environmental permit with the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) for the first section of the road (this is one of many permits they need to obtain).  Their RWQCB application is grossly inadequate—TCA is overlooking impacts to important wetlands, the San Juan Creek, and the surrounding watershed (which could potentially affect the coastal zone).

We need your help to remind the TCA (and decision makers) that the public doesn’t want their toll road.

The RWQCB will be hearing TCA’s application March 13 (in Costa Mesa at 9am).   WE NEED YOU TO ATTEND!  Please mark your calendars. Surfrider will be launching an “action alert” so you can write the RQWCB.  We will also be developing talking points that can be used during public comment at the hearing on March 13.

Keep checking this blog for updates, and if you have questions about the hearing and/or the TCA’s new plan, contact Stefanie at:  Ssekich@surfrider.org

Break out your old Save Trestles tee shirts and join us March 13! 




Thursday, December 20, 2012

Toll Road Agency Under Investigation by the State Treasure



Before we jump into the news about the State Treasure investigating the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), we want to bring up a few points about how this agency is a burden to you, the taxpayer.

A longstanding promise of the TCA is that the roads they build will one day be paid off and “belong to the people of California”. 

However, the timeline of that promise keeps changing. 

Just recently, the TCA Foothill Eastern Board of Directors voted to refinance their debt and bonds—this “restructuring” would effectively push out their debt an additional 13 years.

It’s important to note that while we are waiting to obtain these “free roads” we will continue paying for the upkeep TCA’s roads.  Caltrans (who is funded by our tax dollars) maintains all TCA roadways.  Remember in 2001 when storm drain filters on 73 Toll Road failed and had to be replaced?  Oh yeah, we taxpayers spent $13.5 million to fix their problem.  



And lets not forget how the TCA constantly claims that they do not rely on public funds for their roads, yet over the past several years we have seen them try to obtain federal grants and subsidies (via the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and other federal programs). 

Surfrider is highlighting the financial burdens and pitfalls of this agency because quite frankly the news about the State Treasure investing TCA is huge.  As the Orange County Register reports, it’s very a rare investigation, noting:  “This is the first time in recent memory that the commission has examined the finances of a local agency, said Dressler, the treasurer's spokesman.”  The LA Times notes that Wall Street ratings agencies have labeled the San Joaquin Hills toll road's “junk bonds” and the Foothill-Eastern corridor’s bonds are low investment grade. 

Surfrider regularly attends TCA Board meetings.  During the meetings they paint a rosy picture of their finances—glossing over low ridership, the increase in tolls, and now they are glossing over the investigation of the State Treasure. 

While it’s hard to say exactly what the investigation will find, things are not looking good for the TCA.