Sep 27, 2017 02:27PM
By Don Kindred
Deja Vu all over again. (Originally printed in August 2004)
Almost twenty years ago (mid 1980s), our business community received word that the County of Orange and the State of California had completed a master plan for South County’s transportation infrastructure. They concluded that if we were to remain a mobile society by the year 2025, the state’s next freeway (State Route 241) would have to be built along the eastern foothills and would terminate into the existing I-5 freeway at Avenida Pico.
We responded with the appropriate shock. Oh, we could understand future traffic projections. We knew we were bordered by a Nuclear Generating Station, a missile testing site and the live firing range on Camp Pendleton. And even with 40,000 less people in town at the time, we knew that I-5 would be a parking lot if there were ever any sort of accident. It’s a parking lot quite a bit now, anyway. The State may have needed the road, but not down Pico, not another taffy ribbon of concrete to divide our community like the I-5 did in the ‘60s. We were ready to fight. Why couldn’t they just run it around us?
The problem we found was with the Marine Base. Our neighbor to the South had flatly denied any encroachment on the government’s property in the interest of National Security. Local citizens and officials, and I’m quite sure more than a few folks more powerful than us, spent worthy amounts of time and energy trying to convince the Marines to allow just enough access on the base to run the freeway around us. Common sense prevailed and by 1991 the preferred alignment was moved outside the county/city border. It became a toll road.
Now the debate is whether or not we even need the toll road. It is a debate which may divide our community even more than the Toll Road itself. The Journal has received letters from readers who want to know what position the magazine takes, as if we have some board of directors paid to vote on such issues. We don’t. Some have been offended that we have published positive opinions on the Toll Road. We do. The fact is, we write try to publish only positive articles. We have chosen to Celebrate Life in San Clemente by extolling the favorable aspects of our community, those things that bring us together as opposed to highlighting our differences. There are plenty of other venues for that. I have however, in this issue, included the letters from San Clementeans who have opposed the Toll Road in our Opinions Section.
The scariest part of all this is that somehow, inconceivable to me, the Pico alignment is back on the drawing board. Giving us the one aspect of this issue against which we should all be united. I was encouraged to see the 1,300-home Marblehead Community Association come out with such a strong stance against it. As their spokesman, Ken Caresio, put it, “the species that are endangered the most are not birds, toads or various scrubs but are the human species represented by the families and employees of businesses that are so negatively impacted by this alternative.”
Today is a Tuesday, at three o’clock in the afternoon and the freeway is stopped. I can see it from my window. Now we can and will debate for years whether we need the Toll Road. We can and will argue whether cars moving on a new route will be more harmful than cars idling on an old one. We can debate the relative importance of habitat verses humanity. But the one thing we should all do, regardless of any other consideration is to voice our united opposition, loud and often, to what is now called the Central Corridor Alternative.
Don R. Kindred