A bill that would remove the city of San Clemente from the State Route 241 extension path faces challenging Assembly committee votes following a somewhat divisive Senate vote on Friday.
Senate Bill 1373, authored by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), would simply delete the proposed extension from going through the Orange County city from Interstate 5 to the Oso Parkway.
Although the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), who run toll roads in the county, had announced earlier this year that such a road would not run through the city, the ambiguous promise worried many that it could still happen.
Many residents were worried that a toll road would unfairly charge residents for everyday use to other cities for things like doctors appointments or food shopping. Questions of environmental damage, less ease of travel, and using taxpayer money to build a road that itself would collect tolls have also been brought up during the last several months. With cities and the TCA previously voting down the extension through San Clemente following public pressure, SB 1373 was designed as the last nail in the coffin for the extension plans.
“I thank Senate Democrats and Republicans for approving my bill to keep San Clemente and other communities together,” said Senator Bates in a statement on Friday. “SB 1373 does not preclude Orange County from implementing projects that have local support. As the bill goes to the Assembly, I am committed to working with stakeholders to address their concerns. SB 1373 would help ensure that the TCA cannot extend the toll road through the middle of San Clemente.”
Most residents of the city are also happy with the bill moving up through the legislature.
“A tolled highway going right through the city would have divided us all,” noted resident Alice Parkhurst. “I remember one meeting when we asked if we would have to pay tolls just to go down one exit and they didn’t give an answer.
This would end all discussion. And we’ve had this lingering over our heads since Obama was president. It will honestly be a huge relief.
And this will send a message to other toll ways being considered that go through towns like ours. We can beat them, and make it state law.”
While support in the 24-6 decision on Friday was bipartisan, the possible need for a funded and tolled highway, as well as a crucial highway link up, had both Democrats and Republicans join in opposing SB 1373, with prominent Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) joining in opposition.
“The highway has been needed as a linkup for so long, and now it’s going to cost even more to go around, with significantly less toll costs due to San Clemente being bypassed,” explained former toll booth supervisor Ronald Watters. “Now they might just miss out on everything.”
SB 1373 is expected to be heard in the Assembly this week for consideration.