Monday, February 7, 2011

Oops. Orange County Transportation Authority Includes Foothill-South in Long Range Plan.

The Surfrider Foundation and our Save San Onofre Coalition partners recently noticed the Foothill-South 241 toll road was included in the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).

We were surprised the Foothill-South was included especially considering the road has been found inconsistent with both state and federal environmental laws.  And we were equally perplexed that it was contained in the baseline or “constrained portion” of the plan.   The LRTP itself defines the “baseline” as “[c]omprised of projects or services that have been assessed for their environmental impacts and approved to be implemented.”  The LRTP emphasizes that the “assumed future transportation network for the Year 2035 Baseline includes only projects that are currently under construction or will be implemented soon.”

The Foothill-South project fits neither of these descriptions; indeed, the opposite is true. The road is not under construction and its implementation was disapproved by the Coastal Commission and Department of Commerce based on its harmful environmental impacts. Our Coalition wrote a letter to the OCTA urging them to remove the Foothill-South from their baseline plan. 

You can review our letter here. Surfrider Foundation firmly believes the OCTA should not be spending time and energy on projects that have been deemed environmentally harmful.  We also believe projects included within any regional transportation plan should have secured funding (especially during hard economics times).  The Foothill-South has never met environmental regulations, nor does it have dedicated funding.  Despite this, the 2010 LRTP lists the Foothill-South’s price tag at over $1.2 billion – the most expensive highway project in the LRTP’s baseline.

We are hoping this is an oversight committed by the OCTA and that they are not seriously considering an unapproved and under-funded road. Over the past 10 years, thousands of people have said “No!” to the Foothill-South toll road (3,500 people attended the Coastal Commission hearing and nearly 3,000 people attended the Commerce Dept hearing).  The Surfrider Foundation thinks it’s important that the OCTA does not overlook the sentiments of these passionate people.   We encourage the OCTA to work toward meeting the wishes of people who have spent time providing input on Orange County’s transportation plan.


JackEidt said...

Unfortunately, OCTA knows exactly what they are doing by putting it into the plan. There continues to be a powerful contingent of politicians and their real estate developer benefactors who could not care what "people" want. They believe they know what is best for us and will continue to do what it takes to push this forward. Sadly, it is a case of these road and home builders having nothing better to do but put their dreams on paper and push it into the public realm and hope to catch us sleeping. We have already seen financing appear where it had no useful business.

And sadly, it is up to us, once again, to stand up to them and say: "Not here, never." Thanks, Surfrider, for being awake and keeping the rest of us vigilant.

Jack Eidt
Wild Heritage Planners

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