Toll road lawsuits moved to Orange County

| 8/8/2006

Lawsuits challenging the construction of a toll road through a popular California State Beach Park will now be handled in Orange County instead of San Diego County.

A San Diego County Superior Court judge agreed last week to relocate court proceedings for two lawsuits challenging the $875 million Foothill Toll Road proposal.

The request to move the case was made by the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency. The majority of the agency's operation is in Orange County.

The lawsuits seek to stop a proposed 16-mile extension of the Foothill Toll Road, also known as State Highway 241, which would go through San Onofre State Beach in San Diego County if approved. It is proposed as congestion relief for the San Diego Freeway portion of Interstate 5.

Officials contend that the toll road is the most environmentally sound option of several possibilities, but others view it as damaging to the state beach and are determined to derail the project.

The lawsuits were filed in March in San Diego. According to the Orange County Register , one of the lawsuits was filed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who opposes the 16-mile extension going through San Onofre State Beach, just over the San Diego County line. The other was filed by environmentalists, including the Surfriders Foundation, on similar grounds.

A third lawsuit, also filed by Lockyer on behalf of the California Native American Heritage Commission, says the roadway would run too close to an area of sacred grounds for the Juaneño/Acjachemem people. The third lawsuit is likely headed to federal court.