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Signs criticizing the City Council’s decision to not approve the widening of a 0.9-mile stretch of Ortega Highway could be seen along the highway’s “choke point” on Jan. 19. The signs were placed by a local coalition of residents known as Capistrano Forward. Photo: Alex Paris
Signs criticizing the City Council’s decision to not approve the widening of a 0.9-mile stretch of Ortega Highway could be seen along the highway’s “choke point” on Jan. 19. The signs were placed by a local coalition of residents known as Capistrano Forward. Photo: Alex Paris

By Allison Jarrell

Following a City Council majority vote in January to halt the widening of a 0.9-mile segment of Ortega Highway known to many residents and commuters as the “choke point,” City Councilman John Perry and Mayor Pro Tem Kerry Ferguson presented a new proposal at the council’s Feb. 2 meeting for staff to investigate installing a traffic signal at Avenida Siega and Ortega Highway as well as “no parking” zones along the north side of Ortega Highway.

Reasons given for the proposal included the “dangerous situation” residents experience when they attempt to enter and exit residential neighborhoods along the highway. Perry and Ferguson said the traffic would be “pulsed” with a traffic light, “causing gaps in the traffic flow” and “allowing safer entry and exiting along Ortega.”

With a 3-2 vote—Councilmen Sam Allevato and Derek Reeve dissenting—the council directed staff to look into installing the traffic signal and “no parking” zones.

For background on the council’s decision to stop the widening of Ortega Highway, read our Jan. 8 cover story “Backtracking on the Bottleneck” here.

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comments (12)

  • That is a stupid solution to the problem. The way to help alleviate the problem is to widen the road so that is the same 4 lanes as on either side of the “pinch”.

  • Ask the property owners for your support in widening the road,dont you like trees and nature.relax and enjoy the green grass ,slow down.

  • Ditto, Brian. It is an incredibly stupid solution. The only practical solution, as you point out, is to widen the road to four lanes.

  • This council majority has turned it’s back on its residents and turned back $15.5M in state and local grants in rejecting the removal of the Ortega Chokepoint! Instead of improving and paving our streets, Perry & Ferguson want our residents to spend upwards of $600,000 for a signal at Siega, just 2,000′ from another light. They are both retired and don’t have to use Ortega like our residents that live there. Why not report that and get all the facts out to the public? And good luck next time it floods in this area, but oh again Perry, Ferguson and Patterson don’t live anywhere near Ortega! Instead of reporting on this council majority’s “echo chamber” where they only hear themselves and their few supporters repeat their illogical mantra, talk to residents off Siega and the other homes off Ortega to find out what the people most affected want? Do your due diligence Ms. Jarrell, not puppet the majority’s opinion. What happened to reporters like in the movie “Spotlight” that dared to expose the whole story?

    • Vicky Allevato, wife of Sam Allevato, maybe your husband did not tell you that not all of the funding had been obtained to widen the Ortega. If the flooding is such a serious problem, then why has your husband not obtained emergency funds to fix the flooding in the 12 years he has been in the City Council ?

      • Clint Worthington,
        There is funding for this road. Not all the funding but the majority of it is funded. It still flooding and needs to be fixed so what are your buddies on the council who voted no going to do about it? The road is dangerous and a light to pulse traffic is still not going to fix the narrowness of the road on that turn. Drive it at night. Drive it in the morning. Drive it at about 3:00 in the afternoon. Sit through the freeway exit light onto the Ortega for 10 cycles because the traffic is so backed up. You make everything about Sam Allevato but this is not about him. This directly affects San Juan Capistrano citizens and their ability to get to and from their homes and to get their children to and from San Juan Capistrano’s PUBLIC high school. It seems that these current council members do not care about our children’s safety and well being. Our high school aged new drivers had no choice of where their public high school was built or where new development was constructed. They are trying to get to and from school. These current council members were elected to represent the citizens of SJC and that includes our children and their safety. So rant on with your Sam Allevato bashing if you must but realize your people did not take our children’s safety and well being into account on this. The new council is responsible if any accident occurs on this corner. It is on them now because they voted to not fix a very dangerous situation!!!

  • The last council has spent more money than what you are saying on a traffic signal.The water lawsuit, attorney’s, spend,spend,spend,now you are complaining?

    • Dusty,
      Where the red farm house is there is already enough room for 4 lanes. Nature? There are houses along that stretch of the Ortega and there is room to build 4 lanes without encroaching on these houses. This is about safety. Already the traffic is backed up on the freeway exit and the bridge over the I5 because of the chokepoint. If you put another light in there to “pulse” traffic the traffic will once again be backed up onto the freeway where people will once again have to worry about being rear ended by someone on their cell phone or someone not paying attention.

      Last night someone had a flat tire on that stretch of the Ortega. There was barely enough room to pull over and it was extremely dangerous for them to change their tire because the road is so narrow there.

      The road floods at that point. And it narrows so that any mistake could cause a horrible accident.

      This is about safety. Our children did not choose the site for their public high school. Sorry not all of us can afford or want private. Our children do not work for developers. They are just trying to get an education and get to school safely!!!

      This current council just cost our city over 5 million dollars in a lawsuit. Lawsuits and money are trivial compared to our children’s lives and their safety!!!!

  • Shelly Welcome..

    Go ask those houses that have been there for years,if they want the road cutting into there property.

    This comment has been edited for content.

    • Dusty,
      So because I disagree with you I need to move out of town. That is such an unfriendly attitude and approach to a problem. My children were born here. Are they unwelcome too because I disagree with you. The reality is that San Juan Capistrano has grown. And the ortega is unsafe and floods at the choke point. You have your opinion and are welcome to express. I respectfully disagree with you.

  • So, I have to respectfully disagree with my mother’s (Kerry Ferguson) decision to vote against the widening. I drive our son to club water polo several nights a week at San Juan Hills high school and that is indeed a dangerous choke point, and really unnecessary. So you accept the building of a new high school, all of these homes, and you don’t provide a safe road for citizens to travel? This makes no sense. I come from Laguna Beach and am relatively against more development, but failing to provide a safe corridor, especially a very short one, is stupid and self centered. Compensate the residents along the stretch of highway who will be affected, but please have some common sense here and update this old piece of road with something safe. Putting a light there is only going to create more traffic, more frustration, and what about the safety implications of a fire truck having to get through in an emergency? Think about it and be willing to change your opinion, listen to your residents.

  • As I try to conserve my fuel and be good for the planet I sit idling at yet another traffic light just wasting gas and going no place. So by all means that is just what we need another light. Why don’t we put a traffic light on every corner? Maybe congestion from waiting on lights will get so bad, waste so much fuel idling that we will all go back to horses oh wait where would we keep them now?

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