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By Shawn Raymundo, Lillian Boyd and Collin Breaux

The board of directors for the Transportation Corridor Agencies unanimously voted on Thursday, March 12 to further pursue the extension of Los Patrones Parkway—an arterial, untolled route—as part of the efforts to relieve South County traffic, formally removing any possibility of extending the 241 Toll Road through San Clemente.

Last week, Assemblymember Bill Brough, who has staunchly opposed the TCA, having drafted measures to limit its authority, announced that the agencies will instead further pursue extending the new county arterial road, Los Patrones Parkway, down to the San Clemente city limit as part of the ongoing South County Traffic Relief Effort (SCTRE).

The extension, known as Alternative 22 in the SCTRE, would be an un-tolled road alignment plan that connects Los Patrones from Cow Camp Road in Rancho Mission Viejo to Avenida La Pata, running along the east side of the Prima Deschecha Landfill. The proposal could potentially impact San Juan Capistrano as well.

San Juan Capistrano Mayor Troy Bourne issued a statement last week, saying the city of San Juan Capistrano was very pleased to learn that the TCA will only be advancing the non-tolled Los Patrones extension alignment for continued study.

“My colleagues on the city council and I committed to our constituents that we would stridently oppose any alignments that would negatively impact San Juan Capistrano,” Bourne said in an email. “To that end, we have been working with TCA to focus on a viable alternative to enhance the region’s mobility needs, and we are confident that the proposed arterial highway concept will achieve that purpose.”

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and the TCA have been working on the Relief Effort.

Bourne said he fully supports Caltrans’ efforts to construct the “Lower Ortega Highway Widening Project,” and he is eager to continue discussions with Caltrans, TCA, OCTA and the county to identify funding and advance that long-overdue public safety and traffic relief project.

The SCTRE had included a series of proposed routes, including some to extend the 241 Toll Road through San Clemente and connect to Interstate 5—proposals that have drawn vehement rebuke from local residents.

During a sit-down interview, Sarah King, media relations manager for the TCA, explained that the benefits of going with the un-tolled Los Patrones extension “blew out of the water the alternatives that would connect to the (I-)5.”

“So, really, it was a no-brainer for us to move all of those alternatives for any further consideration,” she said.

According to a breakdown of how each alternative was screened, the un-tolled option for Alt. 22 is estimated to be able to reduce vehicle hours per delay, or VHD, on I-5 by 3,270 hours and by 4,520 hours on all other roadways.

 “I know at times it seemed liked a really challenging process to go through the public meetings and what have you, but having this go through this formal scoping phase and listening to that public input—I mean 1,600 comments is really overwhelming for a project—and their input helped what alternative we were able to provide our board of directors,” she said.

Brough, whose re-election hopes were dashed last week after coming fourth in the state’s Primary Election, recently introduced Assembly Bill 3331, which proposes to amend section 541 of the highways code in an effort to make it clear that the 241 cannot run through San Clemente.

The state lawmaker had previously introduced a bill to limit the TCA’s authority, preventing it from building new projects and incurring additional debt. The measure, AB 1273, died in committee back in January.

The proposal will still need to go through the environmental phase, which is likely to take up another two to three years and be followed by a design phase before construction.

“So, we’re looking at maybe another seven years out,” before completion, King said. “Seven years, that’s probably a little aggressive.”—SR, LB and CB

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