The Zombie Road Must Be Stopped


Halloween is here! While the holiday means costume parties and trick-or-treating to many of us, it also is often linked with supernatural phenomena and the occult.

Maybe this explains why the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) are trying to bring their illegal toll road back from the dead.

A couple of weeks ago, the TCA voted, as expected, to move forward with its plan to revive the Foothill-South Toll Road, which the California Coastal Commission and Bush Administration rejected in 2008. NRDC and the rest of the Save San Onofre Coalition opposed the scheme, which would bring back the road in segments. As my colleague Joel Reynolds has pointed out, this approach is illegal because building the first piece necessarily would prejudice any later consideration of additional segments.

After the vote, one observer referred to the Foothill-South as a “zombie road.” Whether or not this can be scientifically verified, it is undeniable that the TCA board has yet to recognize the demise of its illegal and uniquely destructive proposed alignment through one of California's most popular state parks. In fact, when reminded during public testimony at TCA's recent board meeting of the project's repeated rejection, Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante responded with evident frustration, saying this: "Get a grip! We need the road. It’s going to be completed to the 5. Maybe not in my lifetime, but it’s coming.”

South County motorists aren’t likely to want to wait that long for real traffic relief. For that reason, we and others have repeatedly urged the TCA to consider effective alternatives like widening of the I-5 – a proposal for which a broad consensus and clear need exist. Proposing, as the TCA has most recently done, to divide permitting and construction of the same old illegal alignment into segments is not a viable solution. Even if it were successful in implementing its first stage – building four miles of the alignment into the heart of San Juan Capistrano – the result may only be to flood that South County city with traffic congestion it is unprepared and unwilling to accommodate.

The truth is that the proposed toll road won't be built in anyone's lifetime. The Save San Onofre Coalition will continue to fight the Foothill-South, no matter how many times it tries to come back from the grave.