Toll Road Warriors

You know what talks. Photo by Christopher Victorio

They came in their cars and buses, they spoke and then they got back in their cars and buses and left. Here are some select quotes from those who addressed Jane C. Luxton, general counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Monday. Luxton collected testimony as part of the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ appeal of the California Coastal Commission’s February decision against the TCA’s preferred route for the $1.3 billion 241 toll road extension through San Onofre State Park in South Orange County, Donna O’Neill Conservancy in San Juan Capistrano and Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. Surfers also contend roadwork and runoff would be dangerously close to Trestles beach.

(Read more about the hearing here and the party atmosphere outside here.)

“Fix the 5! Fix it now!” -Irvine City Councilman, Great Park Chairman and 241 extension foe Larry Agran, who knows a billion-dollar boondoggle when he sees one.

“Unfortunately, the press and public think the toll road would be built on sand. ... The 241 could improve beach access to Trestles.” -Dana Point City Councilwoman and state Assembly candidate Diane Harkey

“Park land should belong to the citizens. It is not in the national interest to pave over it.” -San Clemente City Councilman George Eggleston

“What kind of precedent are we setting here? ... This is a frightening precedent for our state and our planet.” -Newport Beach City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner

"One thing the proponents will not mention is the alternative to more traffic. I will tell you: mass transit." -Laguna Beach Mayor Jane Egly, to loud applause

"Keep in mind the only mission of the TCA is to build toll roads. The TCA does not care about traffic, it is the development that will be brought by the road. Developers are trying to force a private road through our precious public land." -Egly, who after an even louder ovation raised her arms as if signaling "touchdown."

“The 241 will provide better access for the residents of my community. ... We have one [existing 241 toll road] transponder for every adult in our city, or one transponder for every parcel in our city.” -Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor Neil Blais

“Yeah, yeah.” -Blais, having finished his four-minute speech, passing a man holding a Save Pahne sign. Local Native Americans say the proposed 241 path threatens their ancestral village within San Onofre State Park.

“I ask for once you put Native American culture ahead of progress.” -Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Vice Chairwoman Sally Cruz-Wright

“This rich man's highway to no where is the wrong road at the wrong time in the wrong place.” -Sierra Club California Coastal Campaign Director Mark Massara

“This road has nothing to do with national security. This road will negatively effect my community.” -United Coalition to Protect Pahne Co-Director Rebecca Robles

“The completion of the toll road is the real solution to the problems of today.” -Rancho Mission Viejo landowner and developer Tony Moiso, who sounds like Jesse Ventura when he speaks.

“HUN!” -What the woman behind my left ear shouted after Moiso said, “If we all just put aside our petty self interests.”

“The recent housing downturn has hurt our members. The toll road project would give them work.” -Carpenters/Contractors Committee Preservation Officer David Kersh

“The matrix of surf breaks at Trestles is unparalleled.” -The Surfer's Journal publisher Steve Pezman

“I am authorized to speak by the zoo-- BOOM! -San Diego Zoo zoologist Debra Shier, whose microphone cut out after the loud boom, prompting a 10-minute break and confirmation that nobody messes with the San Diego Zoo.

“I even surf a bit.” -California Women's Leadership representative, toll road supporter and full figured Orange County über-flack Meg Waters

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“When did you surf?” -A Save Trestles booster, to Waters.

“What this is is another ruse by the building industry. ... Californians' sovereignty is really the issue here.” -Residents 4 Responsible Desalination board member Merle Moshiri

“[San Onofre State Park] was created by the two greatest Republicans ever to come out of California: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. I believe they would be turning in their graves if they knew a Republican was considering reneging on their promise. I urge you to uphold the highly competent, conservative California Coastal Commission.” -The Surfer's Party representative Garth Murphy

“Party on, Garth.” -Me, just now

“Why are we even considering destroying a place that has been around since the beginning of time?” -Encinitas 9-year-old Jake Marshall, who received the loudest, sustained ovation of any speaker.

“I'm not going to be as good as he is.” -San Diego Audubon Society Conservation Chairman Jim Peugh, who had the tough job following Jake.

“The course of history will be changed forever by this project. We must preserve it.” -Save Our Heritage Executive Director Bruce Coons

“Maybe we should consider a toll road is obsolete in these days of the end of oil.” -Pendleton Coast Beach Parks Planning Chair Lyn Hicks

“The Department of Commerce secretary has to overturn the decision of the political appointees of the California Coastal Commission.” -Southern California Commuter Coalition representative Daniel Walker

“The TCA has a history of failed maintenance of units that treat runoff into Aliso Creek, Laguna Canyon and Newport Bay.” -Orange County Coastkeeper Associate Director Briana Madden

“If there are reasonable alternatives, the California Coastal Commission cannot be overridden. Perhaps Caltrans is not presenting viable alternatives because of the non-competitive clause with TCA. Caltrans has no credibility and has violated the public trust. ... Just because the TCA has not chosen alternatives does not mean they do no exist.” -Endangered Habitat League Executive Director Dan Silver

“This road does not further the national interest. The people that this road most interests are the people of Ranch Santa Margarita.” -Natural Resources Defense Council staff attorney David Nagami

“The Marines at Camp Pendleton said 241 is not needed for national security. It doesn't get much clearer than that.” -Nagami, getting to the heart of the matter before the Commerce Department secretary, who must find it is in the national interest to override the Coastal Commission.

“[The road] will serve thousands if not millions of Californians.” -Laborers International Union of North America #652 President Armando Esparza, to thunderous applause from the union seating section.

“[The road] will save our customers a lot of money.” -Cox Communications Vice President of Governmental Affairs Jim Leach

“I say no. N-O. No to permit a toll road through San Onofre State Beach. ... Not a single campground has been constructed in 16 years, yet they want to eliminate camp sites to make room for a toll road.” -92-year-old San Clemente resident Eloise Bobiford, who rolled up to the podium in a walker

“This is not just a beach, it's a place where families get together.” -Tristan Muller of Ladera Ranch

“This terrible monster, the TCA, is taking our precious park.” -Dale Kewitz of San Clemente

“There was no public transportation to get here, and it cost $9 to park, so a lot of people could not be here.” -San Diego's Larry Barker, a toll road foe who sounds like South Park's Mr. Garrison when he speaks.

“[Toll road backing developers] are trying to reduce the very gridlock they helped create. This would be rewarding them for bad planning.” -Gerri Retman-Opper of Solana Beach

“This is a developer's dream.” -Deborah Fry, who drove 100 miles to speak because she fears the destruction of the campsite her family has been visiting for 14 years. She says it's the only nice place they can afford to vacation.

“Perhaps this is fulfilling the outsider view of Orange County, or The O.C.” -former Costa Mesa Mayor and 241 extension foe Sandy Genis

“I think it's unfortunate that so much time was taken by elected officials, and the public was not allowed to speak.” -Alan Honadle of San Marcos

“This is a six-lane highway to environmental injustice.” -Steve Netherby, a San Clemente “senior.”

“My taxpayer dollars have been spent on behalf of developers and private toll road operators.” -Anne Earhart of Laguna Beach

“Widening I-5 would create as many if not more jobs than 241.” -Surfrider attorney Angela Howe, speaking as a San Clemente resident


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