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By Brian Park

Election Kickoff

In the first installment of our question-and-answer series with San Jan Capistrano’s City Council candidates, we asked:

Traffic has always been a point of contention in San Juan Capistrano. Do you support the quiet zone if it means the queue-cutter signals remain at the Del Obispo Street railroad crossing or should the city abandon the quiet-zone effort and remove them? Separately, should San Juan Creek Road be completed to La Pata? If elected, what would you do to improve overall traffic flow for San Juan Capistrano motorists?

Here are the candidates’ responses in the order in which their names will appear on the November ballot:

Sam Allevato

Councilmember/Retired Policeman

The quiet zones were requested by many residents because of the constant barrage of train whistles going off all day and night long. To that end, the Orange County Transportation Authority put in 50 enhanced safety railroad crossings across the county. Because the railroad tracks cross between two major streets, the queue-cutter signals were put in as a safety measure. I believe they have greatly enhanced safety, but have caused extra congestion. OCTA is committed to solve this issue and the issue of the “ghost trains,” which has existed for many years. The completion of the Del Obispo bridge widening will also greatly enhance mobility and safety. The “quiet zones” will be accepted when the insurance coverage is obtained.

I do not support San Juan Creek going through to La Pata as increased traffic would destroy that entire neighborhood bordering San Juan Creek, including Ambuehl School, Tar Farms Stables, Blenheim Farms, a church and homes.

I have worked for the completion of the 241 Tollroad, Cow Camp alternative to Ortega Highway, putting La Pata through to San Clemente and removing the “chokepoint” on Ortega Highway near the east city limits.

For additional on traffic solutions, please visit my website at

Melissa Abbott-Kaffen

Author, Blogger, Mother

San Juan Capistrano residents voted to spend $100 million for “open space” bonds to preserve a slow-paced, horse-friendly lifestyle not to function as a convenient back door for Ladera commuters. A “country lifestyle” doesn’t mean traffic lights at every intersection or turning our neighborhoods into a crazy quilt of highways. (I suggest our neighbors to the east avoid SJC roads when they’re in a hurry.)

I will always vote for a quaint, relaxed and affordable San Juan Capistrano. A quiet zone is a nice idea but not at the expense of an $8 million cost overrun. (Especially when whistles still blow nightly). Likewise, I oppose turning San Juan Creek Road into another high traffic thoroughfare.

Ginny Kerr

Planning Commissioner

I believe it is too soon to abandon the quiet zone effort. City staff is actively pursuing a solution to the “ghost train” and a contract has been issued to synchronize lights along Del Obispo from Ortega Highway to Dana Point. It would be premature to remove the quiet zone improvements until we can weigh the effects of the completion of the bridge-widening project and better synchronization on the traffic in this area.

San Juan Creek Road should not be completed to La Pata. This would necessitate cutting through the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park which is zoned as Open Space — a designation that cannot be changed without a vote of the residents. While there is currently an easement that runs between Blenheim Farm and homes on the other side of San Juan Creek, this area should be gated and used for emergency access only.

Traffic can be improved in our city by completing the extension of La Pata to take traffic generated outside our city around rather than through. Traffic along Junipero Serra and Rancho Viejo Road will see improvements within the next few months and future projects will include improved interchanges at Camino Capistrano/San Juan Creek and Valle/I-5.

Kim McCarthy

Newsletter Editor

I support the quiet zone without the queue-cutter signals at the Del Obispo railroad crossing. The crossing had a 100 percent safety record prior to this million-dollar mistake by our city that has done nothing but contribute to our traffic nightmares.

The completion of San Juan Creek Road to La Pata would alleviate traffic on Ortega Highway yet cause another problem by diverting the traffic to San Juan Creek Road. My approach would be to have workshops involving residents to get their input while reviewing traffic studies and weighing the pros and cons. The goal would be to find a solution that benefits all, rather than creating another problem.

To improve overall traffic flow I would set up workshops to involve residents. I would fix the self-inflicted city debacle at the intersection of Rancho Viejo Road and Junipero Serra Road with solutions already submitted by residents to the city. I would also begin working with Caltrans to add an off-ramp for Interstate 5 at Stonehill Drive to divert Dana Point and other traffic away from downtown.

The residents of San Juan are its best consultants and it is time they are listened to!

Tom Marantz

Technology Administrator

The queue-cutter and quiet zone are two separate issues. The queue-cutter has got to go as it stands now. As stated by OCTA’s Darrell Johnson at the April 17 council meeting, these lights are not required for a quiet zone. Vote for me and I will dedicate myself to ending this problem expeditiously. Free up traffic, end the ghost train. This will lead to safer intersections, save all of us time, money, and gas.

I would not support the extension of San Juan Creek Road to La Pata. This plan would mainly work to the benefit of Ladera and RMV Sendero residents and as a result, I believe this extension would create more traffic than actually ease traffic. San Juan Creek Road needs to be left alone so we do not ruin these iconic surrounding neighborhoods.

As a councilmember, I would avoid wasteful traffic projects that create more congestion like Junipero Serra-Rancho Viejo crossroads and the queue-cutter. We have major residential developments in the east and the I-5 and 74 Interchange Project! Traffic is going to be a mess these next few years and we need a councilman that will “get out of the way” of traffic. I’m that person.

Roy L. Byrnes

Retired Physician/Surgeon

I support a quiet zone. However, I cannot support a quiet zone if it includes a traffic signal at the Del Obispo railroad crossing. The Del Obispo crossing has a 100 percent safety record. A traffic signal at that crossing is not needed and does not make sense. The necessity for insurance protection is the chief obstacle blocking a quiet zone. City staff has not found a cost effective policy so far.

I do not believe San Juan Creek Road can be extended any further east than where the road ends currently. Any extension of San Juan Creek Road east would extend into our open space and legal clearance after review of the original purchase agreement would be required.

Plans always look good on paper for traffic flow. Before we start making changes, let’s see how the traffic flow is once the San Juan Creek underpass is completed and the Ortega Highway interchange is completed. These projects will precipitate a change in driving habits. Let’s see what traffic looks like when it is completed. We should also consider a southbound I-5 connection at Stonehill Drive.

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