Foes of the 241 Foothill-South toll road carving through San Clemente are calling bullshit on the Transportation Corridor Agency's latest ploy to win public support: propping up their unpopular project as a statewide job creator, economic stimulus and deficit buster.
At the South Orange County Chamber of Commerce's State of the Chamber breakfast Wednesday morning, the TCA trotted out an economic benefits analysis it commissioned from "independent" research and consulting firm Beacon Economics that concluded design and construction of the 16-mile route would create 13,663 jobs in OC and 3,800 more statewide.
"At a time when the federal government is looking to stimulate jobs through investing in infrastructure, the good news is that we have a project right here that can make a real difference for families in Southern California," boomed Bill Campbell, the Orange County supervisor who chairs the Foothill/Eastern TCA.
As a supervisor, Campbell finds himself at odds with county union workers when it comes to protecting their jobs and retirements. But for the dog and phony show before chamber suck-ups, Campbell back slapped Jim Adams, council representative for the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council, which is bully on getting its members jobs tearing up some of the county's most pristine wild lands.
"Our members can't afford to be without work any longer," Adams bemoaned. "We need to do all we can to find local and regional projects in both the public and private sectors that can stimulate employment. Our unions look forward to working with business organizations and community leadership to advance the 241 toward completion."
The report from Beacon, which has offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, also claims:
- Extension of the 241 will generate $121 million in tax revenue to state and local government between now and completion of the project;
- It will create nearly $160 million annually in local and state tax revenue thereafter;
- It will generate more than $3 billion in economic output in California.
"In this economy, with millions out of work throughout this state, anyone with an ability to create a job has a duty to do so," barked Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council.
She blathers on, "It is clear that this study supports the well-settled rule that building infrastructure can kick-start an economy into high gear. Take note elected leaders and regulators! No more delays. Build and complete the 241 and ease traffic on the 5, move our workers and products, our visitors and families, and create jobs now!"
Damn, cue the Wagner already, Lucy.
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Actually, there's something interesting in that last bit: easing traffic on the San Diego (5) Freeway. Because, when it comes to creating jobs, stimulating the economy and getting more bang for your bucks like those people who want government running like a business like to say, simply widening the 5 would accomplish the same goals.
During the 2008 California Coastal Commission consistency hearing in Del Mar, Transportation Corridor Agencies CEO Tom Margro himself testified that the estimated amount of labor required for a widening of the existing I-5 was at least comparable to, if not greater than, the proposed extension to SR-241. By stymying the I-5 widening project in favor of the SR-241 extension, the TCA are not only inhibiting job growth, they are continuing to pursue more costly and less effective solutions to South Orange County's traffic woes.
To support this view, McClain provided links to a couple other reports. One, from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, shows how projects comparable to widening the I-5 through South Orange County can create jobs. The second, from 2008 and the San Joaquin Hills TCA itself, shits on the idea of widening the 5 vs. extending the Foothill-South.
"In the face of job-creating prospects such as the I-5 widening project," McClain says, "the public should be asking why do local governments continue to allow the TCA to maintain non-competative agreements that prevent us from pursuing these opportunities?"
Perhaps the TCA will answer that in their next report.