In an updated poll assessing Orange County voters’ views of a proposed toll road, Orange County voters remain strongly opposed to a proposed toll road through San Onofre State Beach, the 5th most popular state park. Unfortunately, the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), an Orange County agency who’s sole role is to build toll roads, is still fighting to extend Orange County’s 241 toll road an additional 16 miles cutting this popular state park.
A federal hearing will take place on September 22 with the TCA gunning to overturn the California Coastal Commission’s 8 to 2 decision that denied the toll road extension. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will run the hearing and I am hopeful that they will support the Coastal Commission’s decision by denying TCA’s appeal.
The new poll, which was conducted by Dr. Jan van Lohuizen (Voter/Consumer Research) and David Binder (David Binder Research), a bipartisan team of pollsters, clearly demonstrates that voters, even in one of the most conservative California counties, treasure state parks and want alternative options to help ease traffic congestion. Moreover, 68% of those surveyed indicated that the Bush Administration should support the Coastal Commission decision and not over-ride it. I would expect these numbers in Los Angeles or San Francisco County…but Orange?
Other poll highlights include:
• 70% of Orange County voters are aware of plans to build a toll road to connect the 241 with the I-5 south of San Clemente. Last year, 58% of those surveyed indicated awareness.
• When asked about the proposed toll road and with NO information provided, 52% of voters support the plan. Last year, 51% of voters supported the toll road.
• However, when voters were informed that the proposed toll road would go through San Onofre State Beach and would come close to Trestles Beach, support for the toll road dropped precipitously with only 33% supporting and 63% opposing or strong opposing. Half of voters, 50%, strongly oppose the road, which is 17 points more than the total support for the road, after voters learn about the impact on the park.
• Nearly two-thirds of voters agree that it is time to end our dependence on foreign oil, think about transportation in different ways and solve traffic congestion without destroying natural resources like San Onofre State Beach.
Similar to last year’s poll, the findings in this year’s survey are clear and compelling and should send a chilling message to the politicians who run the Transportation Corridor Agency – paving a state park is unacceptable.
Even though the TCA intensified its PR efforts to pave over San Onofre State Park, they still have failed to sway public opinion. The proposed toll road through a state park didn’t make sense when it was conceptualized and it doesn’t make sense today. No matter how much money the TCA throws at this, no matter how much PR they do, it’s still a bad idea. You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig. Toll road alternatives have been proposed and its time our politicians heed the will of the people and seriously consider alternatives that leave our state parks intact.
San Onofre State Beach should not be viewed as a right-of-way for a $1.3 billion boondoggle. San Onofre’s open spaces, pristine waters and popular camping grounds should remain available to all Californians to enjoy now and for future generations. There are other, more viable and less environmentally harmful options that exist and TCA should pursue them.
Elizabeth Goldstein is the president of the California State Park Foundation. With its 95,000 members, the California State Parks Foundation is the only independent nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting, enhancing, promoting and advocating for California’s magnificent state parks. For more information about California’s state parks, visit www.calparks.org.