Wanting to break ground to avert 91-freeway-style traffic snarls, county officials on Tuesday morning approved the environmental studies necessary to propel construction of the La Pata Avenue extension.
However, approving the studies did nothing to reconcile the for the $90-million connector, which would link San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. Officials need to secure $42 million before any soil will turn.
"Is there any way that we as a board can find funding faster, sooner, quicker?” 2nd District Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach asked Tuesday.
He and 5th District Supervisor Pat Bates said closing the transportation gap in La Pata–as well as from Oso Parkway to Trestles—is vital not only to daily commutes, but to create a secondary evacuation route to the 5 freeway.
“Certainly the evacuation issues that have come to the forefront [since] the earthquake and tsunami in Japan” should be kept in mind, said Bates.
In approving the environmental reports, the Board of Supervisors also approved an alignment for the extension. La Pata Avenue would be widened from three to five lanes, starting about 2,700 feet south of Ortega Highway and running to the Prima Deshecha Landfill. The road would also be extended from the landfill south to Calle Saluda and Avenida La Pata in San Clemente.
The road's path would come as close as 400 feet to homes in the Talega community. Although two Talega residents told the board this was an improvement from the 100-foot distance proposed two years ago, they said they couldn't fully support the alignment.
An alternative path that called for the connector to run closer to the Forster community to the west didn't get "equal billing," they said.
"I don’t think the neighbors in Talega have been given a fair shake in this [Environmental Impact Report]," said Talega resident Val Ignat. "We will never know what the benefit might have been on the western alignment."
But planners said the eastern alignment—the one supervisors approved Tuesday—is the one that's always been most-seriously considered. The western alignment would have traversed protected open space areas and would have required the city of San Clemente to use eminent domain to acquire rights of way, said project manager Harry Persaud.