Bauer: San Clemente & South County Don’t Need More Toll Roads or TCA

The Transportation Corridor Agency is a joint powers authority that has been repeatedly wrong in the past to build roads. It now wants us to believe that Orange County traffic will improve after a toll road has been put through the center of San Clemente.

This is the joint powers authority that was wrong about the initial cost of the roads; they missed it by $3.2 billion, or 400%.

They were wrong about estimated ridership (they were high), and were wrong about when the roads would revert back to being free for all residents.

They also may or may not be on the edge of junk bond status.

Scouring the pages of TCA history, I've never seen an apology for their gross inaccuracies.

And further, I've never seen the TCA board of trustees ever put stringent measures in place deserving of their $3.2 billion whoopsie. Otherwise how can they justify how their CEO makes $393,000 salary plus benefits? That's more than the CalTrans director, and the CalTrans budget is fifty five times the size of the TCA, with over 20,000 more employees!

On the other hand we have your average San Clemente working family who stretched their budget to live in the house they own. Commuting times aren't their priority, which is why they live in San Clemente. But they dream of giving their children memories of the beach and California sunshine while they grow up. They don't have a view now, but soon they could be looking up at the toll road from their back yard. The drop in home value will put them upside down with their mortgage, leaving them to become prisoners of their new "highway home" while their kids are exposed to the exhaust fumes and noise. Or they could declare bankruptcy and try to make a new dream somewhere else. This family represents the people who will be affected exactly this way if the toll road goes through.

The question is, would you allow this to happen to your own city?

Did you know that the TCA's own study said that traffic may be reduced as little as 2% if the toll road is built? Did you also know that average travel time in Orange County has changed by only two minutes in the past 16 years, based on the new Southern California Association of Governments study? San Clemente times increased by three minutes, but that's from having five long years of local highway construction. If anything, shouldn't we wait to see what happens with traffic when the extra highway lanes in San Clemente open up? Doesn't that make more sense than spending a billion dollars on a road only the wealthy can afford?

Times are changing.

Americans did most of their Christmas shopping online last year, and statistics show that malls across America are dying as people change how they live. Many families have one or both spouses that work from home. Teleconference apps allow people to see & talk to each other halfway around the world for free. A short telephone call to Japan used to cost a fortune.

Bottom line--driving is often optional.

Superhighways are a construct of the Eisenhower era, when one mile in every five had to be straight so it could be used as an emergency runway. They go hand in hand with the finned fenders and tract homes of 1950's California. But who wants to live next to a freeway? No one. Stores and services know this, and have been moving out to their customers in the suburbs for decades. Major conveniences (grocery stores, gas stations) are never more than 10 minutes from the homes of most OC residents.

A toll road through San Clemente serves no purpose. The traffic we see now is often on the weekends when L.A. is trying to get to San Diego, and vice versa. Only 2.8% of OC commuters work in San Diego, while 22.7% work in Los Angeles (2017 SCAG study). Are we sure our road construction crews are pointed in the right direction?

As this issue plays out, consider that your community could be next. San Clemente residents support any city that supports us. San Clemente is ready to talk about real solutions to traffic issues, but not at the expense of our community, our history, our health or our homes.

The TCA doesn't realize that it died when the last viable route around San Clemente--the Green Route--was lost in a court settlement. True, there are certain politicians and groups carrying around the TCA corpse like a "Weekend at Bernie's" remake, but deep down even they realize that our traffic issues need to be solved with something other than a toll road.

Cord Bauer,  co-founder of San Clemente Cares

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