By Councilman Sam Allevato
In response to the article “The Push to Widen Ortega Highway” in the Community Common Sense, March 2015 Newsletter:
The only project that the city is currently working on is the removal of the one-mile chokepoint between Calle Entradero and the east city limit. This is the area that goes from four lanes, narrows to two lanes, and then widens back to four lanes. This is a classic “chokepoint” that is not only a safety hazard, but is also lacking in curbs, gutters, storm drains, etc. and is subject to flooding during storms. That is the only “push” to widen Ortega to four lanes in this area only, with the majority of the widening occurring on the north side of the roadway where there currently are no curbs or gutters.
In 2007, I represented the city on the Major Investment Study for Measure M2 funding for transportation projects. This committee was set up to discuss expenditure priorities for the half-cent sale tax that is used for roadway projects throughout Orange County. Way down the list was a proposal to widen Ortega Highway to six lanes if Orange County had all the money in the world to work with. Obviously, I strongly protested because:
- It would be physically impossible to widen the roadway because you would have to “cantilever” the road out over the south side of the road into the backyard of homes in that area, and
- There are four historical homes, all on the south side of the roadway, namely the Harrison House, Parra Adobe, Hankey House and the Errecarte Home. These structures are on the list of historical places and can’t be moved. They effectively block any widening of the roadway.
This proposal was “shelved” after my protestations and I was joined in the protest by Councilmember Frank Ury of Mission Viejo, and then Supervisor Pat Bates, who understands the sensitivity of this historic highway.
Since the city and the county are not considering widening Ortega Highway, a better question may be, “What other improvements are planned to assist mobility in our area?” La Pata is currently under construction to connect to San Clemente. The 241 Tollroad is planned to be extended from its current terminus at Oso Parkway and will end at Cow Camp so that the residents of Sendero will have a way to get in and out without having to use Ortega. Cow Camp Road (located just north of Ortega off of Antonio Parkway) will be a four-lane road that will parallel Ortega Highway and will connect with Ortega Highway approximately five miles east of La Pata, essentially becoming the new route for commuters.
For the Common Sense newsletter to purport that there is a “push” by the city to widen Ortega Highway is a manipulation of the facts and appears to be aimed at needlessly alarming residents living along Ortega Highway. To suggest, as it does in this article, that I ever supported the idea of six lanes on Ortega Highway is just not accurate.