Thursday, October 6, 2011

“More pavement is always better than less pavement”.

You probably figured out Surfrider didn’t say, “more pavement is always better than less pavement”. And you probably realized it was the desperate toll road developers at the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) that would even think, let alone say something so out of touch. Yesterday Surfrider Foundation along with Natural Resource Defense Council attended TCA’s Finance and Operations Committee meeting to learn they are proposing to build the first 4 miles of their once denied project. Their new cockamamie plan aims to build the road from Oso Parkway to just north of Ortega Highway.

We know. It’s utterly baffling. It's clear the TCA is proposing an illegal piecemeal project that has already been rejected by the California Coastal Commission and the Bush Administration. Their hubris is actually pretty amazing—they are trying to evade the law by breaking up the road into little chunks.

Let’s just say in a crazy, pretend world, they obtained all the permits to build the first segment of the road. There would still be major environmental impacts. In addition to substantial grading of the terrain, there would be impacts on San Juan Creek. Even the TCA’s own engineer admitted there are engineering and environmental challenges at San Juan Creek near Ortega Highway.

Plus, ending the road near Ortega doesn’t make traffic sense! Anyone who drives this area can tell you that. Even members of the Board of Directors will tell you that Ortega Highway is not a highly functioning road and it couldn’t handle the extra traffic (a few members outright admitted this yesterday).

Now, to compound an already senseless situation, they are proposing harebrained funding schemes. One mechanism of funding is based on future traffic models for the area. Funding would be calculated by taking “projected” daily trips multiplied by tolls. This scheme, founded on cooked numbers, tries to justify building the project, rather than objectively predicting actual demand. TCA once again admitted a downfall by acknowledging none of their traffic models have ever been correct. Yet they want to obtain funding on faulty models?

As if the TCA hasn’t made enough missteps with this piecemeal plan, they are also overlooking public input (just like they did with the first go-around of the project). Since being denied at the state and Federal level, the TCA has been touting their “outreach” efforts. Yet, they are allowing only one week to do more outreach before the Board fully approves the segment measure. How is that consistent with their “extensive outreach models”?

And since we are living in hard economic times with money woes dominating news cycles and dinner-table conversations, it’s worth pointing out that the TCA has been seeking Federal funding through the TIFIA program over the years. That’s our public money, people! This flagrantly contradicts their claim that they do not rely on public funds.

Well, despite hearing this bothersome news, we can actually thank the TCA. Thanks TCA for giving us a new saying that we will make into a mockery for a tee shirt design (i.e. “more pavement is better than less pavement”). And thank you once again for bringing together our tightly organized Save San Onofre Coalition. We, and the surrounding communities, are united in opposition to this piecemeal plan and will not stop fighting until it’s dead (again).


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