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Mark Speros, San Juan Capistrano
Did you notice it?
The “Ortega Highway Armageddon” that Councilman Sam Allevato continues to write about in his newsletter, the warning signs Capistrano Forward repeatedly posted along Ortega, and of course the big, expensive direct mailing from the “Neighbors for Ortega Highway Chokepoint Improvement” that have been incessantly shouting we must act now or lose the chance to end this congestion, came to a feverish head at the beginning of this month.
Yet, without a dollar being spent, Ortega Highway is suddenly flowing like free beer at Swallow’s Inn.
What happened? Two words: school’s out. And with it, the bum’s rush for us to lay siege on our City Council to demand immediate widening suddenly has no urgency. But as every parent knows, summer will come to an end, and with the first bell of the first day, our congestion will re-materialize. Or will it?
This summer will be unlike any other, as the La Pata extension will open in August, providing an alternate route for all those SJHHS students coming from San Clemente as well as the many, huge double tractor-trailer trash trucks coming from south of San Juan Capistrano.
But here’s the ultimate irony. The costs for that extension, like so many other road jobs, increased from what was estimated (no surprise). While county tax dollars (your money) were forced to be paid out, Rancho Mission Viejo’s financial commitment as the developer (and prime beneficiary of the extension) paid not one dime more.
The congestion generated primarily by the current school traffic is nothing compared to what the completion of RMV’s future full buildout will be, whether Ortega is widened or not. Imagine OCTA’s alternate east/west corridor running from Antonio to I-5 and the 73 toll road, which would provide the needed capacity RMV is generating, plus provide an alternate for residents of Ladera Ranch and commuters from Riverside. The power of this direct, high-speed artery, through or under undeveloped land (eliminating the costly purchase of right-of-ways) cannot be underestimated.
Will it be cheap? No, but neither was the 241 or 73 (which obviously were considerably larger in scale) and can you imagine what traffic would be like in Orange County without them? RMV is adding the equivalent of a small city to our east—it will be bigger than San Juan when it’s completed. It’s only fair they be required to supply/support the infrastructure that directly serves their considerable impact (and resulting RMV profits), rather than foisting the costs and gridlock on San Juan Residents and the county.