Thursday, May 3, 2018

SAN CLEMENTE ARTERIAL & MOBILITY STUDY FINDS A ROAD THROUGH SAN ONOFRE USELESS

In November 2016, after 15 years of battling the Transportation Corridor Agency’s 241 Toll Road extension, the Save San Onofre Coalition (SSOC) entered into a lawsuit settlement and signed a Protective Agreement which protects San Onofre State Park and most of the San Mateo Watershed from road construction in this precious open space. In July 2017, the San Clemente City Council filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate this Protective Agreement and open the protected area back up to consideration for roadway construction. Apart from requiring the SSOC to defend the Protective Agreement in costly litigation, this action sent a powerful and disconcerting message that the San Clemente City Council could be ok with roadway construction through California’s 5th most visited state park. 

During the past year, council members have expressed interest in extending Avenida La Pata to Cristianitos Rd – a road that would cut through San Onofre State Park. The Save San Onofre Coalition expressed concern that the San Clemente City Council was interested in this arterial. We were worried about this potential road alignment because this arterial construction through the park would pose many of the same detrimental impacts as the southern part of the previously proposed 241 Toll Road extension that we fought against for 15 years. 

On March 1, 2018, the San Clemente City Council held a press conferenceto announce the results of an Arterial and Mobility Study performed by the IBI Group.  This study was conducted to determine the congestion reduction utility of four different roadway development alternatives or “packages.” The study analyzed the traffic releif benefit of the hypothetical La Pata – Cristianitos connection as well as the original 241 Toll Road alignment through San Onofre. The IBI study found that there is virtually no traffic benefit in building an arterial or toll road through San Onofre State Park.

At the City Council’s March 6, 2018 meeting, the IBI engineers presented these same conclusions to the San Clemente City Council. At that meeting, Councilmembers Lori Donchak and Kathy Ward both express opposition to a toll road through San Onofre State Park in their post-presentation comments. (Beginning 24:15)After Councilmember comments, the council voted to submit an arterial plan that excludes both the La Pata – Cristianitos connection and the 241 Toll Road extension through San Onofre State Park. 

As far as the SSOC is concerned, the conclusions of this IBI study are great news. The study shows that there is no need for any road through San Onofre State Park, and the San Clemente City Council is now on record as not pursuing such a road. We are thankful for the City Councilmembers who have spoken out against the toll road through San Onofre both from the dias and in print media

The other great news about the conclusions of this IBI Study is that it presents an opportunity for the San Clemente City Council to suspend it’s lawsuit. The City Council’s lawsuit against the TCA and the SSOC only seeks to invalidate the Protective Agreement which prohibits road construction through the Avoidance Area. Since the City Council has now gone on record supporting a plan which excludes any such road construction it has no reason to invalidate the Protective Agreement. If the City Council is no longer studying or advocating for a road through the park and the open space protected in the Avoidance Area, there is no longer any motivation to include this important open space in any future discussion of roadway construction. 

Common sense dictates that the San Clemente City Council could save significant taxpayer money and effort by suspending its lawsuit.

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