The Year in the 241 Toll Road
This was the year the Transportation Corridor Agency did . . . still checking. That's right: it did exactly what its fellow bureaucrats had long been predicting. It did nothing. And five years ago, a woman named Susan Withrow saw it all with such promise. Withrow, then chair of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency's board of directors, wrote in the agency's 2000 annual report, "The tentative construction start date for the Foothill South is in the 2003/2004 fiscal year." She was referring to TCA's plans to extend the 241 toll road from its current terminus in Rancho Santa Margarita down to the I-5 just south of San Clemente. She was funny.
Two years after that, in 2002, the Foothill/Eastern board of directors' new chair, Scott Diehl, expressed hopefully—we like wistfully better—in the annual report that "a draft Environmental Impact Report is expected to be available for public review in September 2003." You need that to build a road. It came out eight months late: May 7, 2004—with a TCA press release suggesting that if the Federal Highway Administration could sign off on the project by 2005, "construction can begin around 2006-2007, with a completion date of 2008-2009." Please?
Except TCA got more than 7,000 comments on the EIR draft—including opinions from the attorney general and the State Parks Department that it was sadly deficient—so they wrote a new one with 5 percent of additional material.(Just like that widescreen DVD of The Island.) The new EIR came out in December. On Jan. 12, TCA will almost surely approve it, along with the path they want the toll road extension to take—ironically, they're calling it the "Green Alignment"—and somethingmight conceivably get done.
But it won't. They'll get sued: possibly by the State Parks Department, but most likely by the Natural Resources Defense Council. And we'll have a front row seat. I envy us.