Officials overseeing the 241 Toll Road in Orange County said today they have moved to scrap federal environmental reviews of an extension of the major arterial to San Diego County because they have languished for about a decade.
That does not mean, however, that the extension plans have stalled permanently. Instead of focusing on a 16-mile extension of the toll road, officials are refocusing on a roughly 5.5-mile extension.
Two of what officials refer to as a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Route 241 were published 13 years ago, according to Lisa Telles of the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which oversees the county's toll roads. A draft of the report was completed in 2004 and has languished since then as various groups fought the extension. The California Coastal Commission objected to it in 2008.
"This action takes that document off the table for the entire project," Telles said. "It's to the point where so much time has passed we'll have to start all over again anyway."
The Tesoro Extension Project would extend the toll road to Oso Parkway near Coto de Caza to Cow Camp Road near San Juan Capistrano. Further extending the toll road another 11 miles to connect the toll road to the Santa Ana (5) Freeway would require a new environmental review.
"We're going to have to start from scratch when we decide to do anything south of the Tesoro Extension," Telles said.
The agency is appealing the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board's denial of a 2013 permit for the project. The deadline for the State Water Resources Control Board to rule on the appeal is October, Telles said.
Overturning the denial would be a significant milestone for the agency, Telles said. But officials still need other permits to begin construction of the extension, she added.
The toll road extension from the Mission Viejo area has been touted as an alternative to the Santa Ana (5) Freeway, but various environmental groups have objected to the project.
Workers broke ground Friday in San Clemente on another planned alternative to the Santa Ana (5) Freeway in south county. The $72 million La Pata Extension project will add add four lanes, extending La Pata Avenue from just south of Vita Montana to Calle Saluda.
The second phase will add a lane in each direction of La Pata between Ortega Highway and just south of Vista Montana. The final phase will extend Camino Del Rio to La Pata.
Telles said experts have determined that while the La Pata project will help relieve congestion on the freeway, the toll road extension is also necessary to alleviate traffic congestion.
--City News Service