Public hearing set on toll road through California state park beach

| 8/26/2008

Federal officials have set a time and place for a rescheduled public hearing on a controversial toll road project that would bisect state parkland in Southern California.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies, a nonprofit government agency, wants to build a tolled extension of State Route 241 in Orange and San Diego counties as a measure to reduce congestion on Interstate 5.

The toll road is proposed to bisect parkland at the San Onofre State Beach, which has spurred environmental groups and others to mount protests and file lawsuits to block it.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce has scheduled the public hearing for 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Sept. 22, at O’Brien Hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar, CA.

In order to deal with the anticipated large crowd, officials are requiring that people sign up in writing at least 10 days in advance if they want time at the podium. According to the NOAA Web site, written comments will also be accepted at the hearing.

To request time to speak at the hearing, you must notify NOAA in writing by Sept. 12 at the following address:

            Thomas Street, attorney advisor
            NOAA Office of General Counsel for Ocean Services
            1305 East-West Highway, Room 6111
            Silver Spring, MD 20910

Officials are not accepting requests to speak by fax, voicemail or e-mail. Click here for more information about the NOAA hearing procedure.

The purpose of the hearing is for NOAA officials to uphold or overturn a vote by the California Coastal Commission to reject the Transportation Corridor Agencies proposal.

NOAA officials were scheduled to have their hearing in June, but it was canceled on concerns about venue capacity, security and cost.

Officials hope the sign-up policy and added security will help control the size of the crowd at the rescheduled hearing which will be at the same venue.

Transportation Corridor Agencies officials said the concerns environmental groups have with the toll road, including that it would harm the surf and endanger wildlife, are overblown.

“Our region needs an alternate route, and the 241 extension is the proven answer and one that is supported by a majority of residents of San Diego and Orange Counties,” officials stated.

– By David Tanner, staff writer