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By Shawn Raymundo
The Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees on Wednesday, March 13, passed a resolution formally opposing proposed plans to extend the 241 Toll Road through San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.
The board passed the resolution in a 5-2 vote, with Board President Gila Jones and Trustee Martha McNicholas opposed. The resolution challenges the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ (TCA) proposals to have the 241 connect to the I-5 Freeway by passing near some CUSD schools.
The CUSD board “does oppose any toll road extension that could significantly impact or harm District pupils, teachers or staff, or diminish the utility of the District’s schools or facilities,” the resolution states.
In late January, the trustees received a presentation from CUSD special counsel Stan Barankiewicz, who outlined the potential impacts an extended toll road can have on the local schools, including Esencia Elementary School and the San Juan Hills, Tesoro and San Clemente High Schools.
As part of its South Orange County Traffic Relief Effort, the TCA this past August submitted four options, or alternatives, for the 241 extension. Alternative 13 would connect the 241 to the I-5 via La Novia Avenue in San Juan Capistrano. Alternatives 14 and 17 would have the 241 connect in San Clemente, down by Avenida Pico and near Avenida Vaquero, respectively.
The fourth proposal, Alternative 21, comprises two separate roadway segments, with the first one extending Los Patrones Parkway from Cow Camp Road to Avenida La Pata. “The second segment would provide a median-to-median, high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane connector from SR 73 to I-5,” according to the Relief Effort.
Deputy Superintendent Clark Hampton told the board Wednesday night that the resolution authorizes district staff and legal counsel to attend TCA meetings and express dissatisfaction with the alignment options.
CUSD estimates it will spend about $30,000 in legal fees for special counsel to prepare submitted comments as well as testify at public hearings and agency meetings. Hampton noted that the cost could be higher or lower depending on how the TCA’s proposals move forward.
“Best-case scenario is a particular alignment doesn’t impact the school site,” he said. “Worse case would be, they’re picking an alignment that does have an impact on the school site, and we would require more interaction.”
Prior to voting, McNicholas said she would not vote in favor of the resolution, because it would require spending on a transportation issue rather than on education.
“While I absolutely support a healthy and safe environment for students and staff, which is the first part of this resolution, I do not support spending education dollars on transportation issues, and I will vote ‘no,’ ” she said.
McNicholas also contended remarks she has read online state that CUSD hasn’t been fighting the TCA on the extension.
“Contrary to what may have been posted to websites and social media about this district not fighting the toll road, some people thought we have not fought the toll,” she said. “This district has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars taking legal action against the public agencies responsible for the toll road.”