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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

Eco-Extremists Have Made Proposed Foothill South Toll Road 10-Year Drive to ‘Nowheresville’

North County drivers heading to and from Orange County on Interstate 5 are the forgotten motorists during weekday traffic updates.

They are neither here nor there when it comes to media attention but the commute is growing in size, as anyone who has traveled the route at the most popular hours of the day can attest.

Officials estimate that 150,000 vehicles traverse the two counties each weekday , a number expected to jump 60 percent in the next 18 to 20 years.

Commuters who work in OC and live in San Diego are also the forgotten motorists in the debate over a proposed 16-mile toll road, the so-called Foothill South Corridor that would parallel Interstate 5 alongside Trestle Beach near San Onofre State Park.

Eco-extremists have blocked the forward progress of the toll road at each and every twist and turn of the approval process. They’ve spent a decade keeping the route from becoming a reality.

The issue is an important one because it pits the self-appointed guardians of the ecology against the rest of us, who are trying to muddle through.

They argue that construction and placement of the highway so close to the ocean could disrupt wave patterns by changing the underlying contours of the beaches, and hence, ruin the surfing along a long stretch of the beach.

Just Speculation

There’s no proof of this, of course. Just speculation.

The latest obstruction comes attached to a defense authorization bill now before Congress that would force the Transportation Corridor Agencies, sponsor of the road, to submit its blueprints before the California Coastal Commission, among other state regulators, for OKs.

Needless to say, the all-powerful and highly partisan commission is unlikely to approve the road, effectively shelving a desperately needed driving alternative from North County.

The fight, as noted, raises important social questions.

At what point do the greater needs of society, such as roads and other infrastructure, stop taking a back seat to the narrowly defined interests of a few?

Motorists know the road is needed. Ecologists argue it’s not.

They say, for example, that many solo drivers could switch over to the numerous commuter trains running between Los Angeles and San Diego to get to work.

Yeah, sure.

It’s one thing to say that we should all be using public transit; but it’s another to attempt to force public transit on us by making it impossible to drive roads and highways because of politically enforced congestion.

Plebian Plutocracy

It’s not democracy , it’s plebian plutocracy, the rule of a couple hundred over tens of thousands.

Other than adding trains to existing tracks, there has been no real regional planning for public transit. It’s a jerry-rigged system incapable of serving the needs of the larger work force, which is diverse and scattered, and not really served by trains.

Someone living in Carlsbad or Oceanside can take the train to and from a work site in Irvine, but how does that commuter get from the train station to one of the many high-rise towers scattered across that city?

It’s dishonest for environmentalists to push alternatives that don’t exist, and it’s unethical for politicians to side with the environmentalists and do nothing to put in place transit alternatives.

Let’s stop promulgating political policy through the courts and the bureaucracies, and stop playing mind games with the political process.

Essentially, Foothill South is opposed by a few who don’t believe in progress, but in keeping a near-private playground.

The toll road backers say everything will be done to protect the waves, the beaches, the setting for future generations of surfing enthusiasts, and there is no reason not to believe them.

What’s more, we’ve gone through two full environmental reviews. Do we need a third, a fourth, a fifth?

Meanwhile, transportation officials say that it will cost $100 billion just to keep pace with population growth in Southern California in the next 50 years.

That population, by the way, is expected to jump to 31 million by 2050 from 20 million in 2000.

Adding Decks

Planners are thinking of adding decks to existing freeways and turning existing freeways into toll roads just to raise enough money to repair the roads in place.

Those gas taxes go to pay for bloated state salaries and benefits, not roads.

Dark clouds loom ahead.

In Sacramento, politicians are talking about taking planning decisions away from city and county governments in favor of a statewide planning agency, much like the all-powerful California Coastal Commission.

That could be even a further disaster for motorists.

Such an agency would have remarkable powers, and would further complicate the process for building new routes for the next generation.

What we need is relief, not more restrictions.

It’s a cryin’ shame to have folks sitting in gridlock for much of the commute hour on California roads because of ongoing opposition to new asphalt and concrete.

Tom York is editor of the Business Journal.


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