Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has officially submitted its comments on the latest efforts to relieve traffic, in a project known as the South County Traffic Relief Effort (SCTRE).

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), in cooperation with the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), are proceeding forward in initiating the environmental phase to conduct more detailed studies regarding proposed routes to relieve traffic.

In October, a memo from OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson explained the agency’s position on the proposed 241 Toll Road extensions through San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

“The efforts leading up to the environmental phase have raised concerns with OCTA,” Johnson said in the report, which was presented during the OCTA’s Regional Planning and Highway Committee meeting on Oct. 6. “These concerns generally focus on a lack of meaningful stakeholder coordination, questionable technical analyses, and conflicts with Measure M2 and other improvements planned by OCTA.”

In a Dec. 5 letter, OCTA officially submitted its comments for the public scoping period currently scheduled to close Feb. 7.

“The SCTRE is not part of the transportation system vision,” the letter states. “The SCTRE project is inconsistent with current transportation system plans and regional transportation planning documents.”

Without adequate development of system and regional plans and meaningful stakeholder input, projects could emerge haphazardly and lacking public support. This creates confusion about the vision for the transportation system, the letter goes on to state.

One of the major concerns OCTA executives has expressed with SCTRE is the possibility that Measure M-funded roadways will be converted to toll lanes.

“If you vote yes (on Measure M2), you expect those tax-funded projects to be built,” Johnson said in a previous interview. “It’s extremely concerning to us, and we take it very seriously that we deliver on our promises.”

In February 2018, OCTA had initiated a project to build six new miles of carpool lanes between San Juan Creek Road and Avenida Pico on I-5. Ideas 11 and 12 would convert Measure M-funded carpool lanes—Avenida Pico to San Juan Creek Road—to HOT lanes.

In a previous statement, TCA had said the agency is aware of OCTA’s concerns.

“TCA has had, and will continue to have, opportunities for robust input from the public and stakeholders, including OCTA,” the statement said.

In the scoping period thus far, TCA and Caltrans have hosted three community meetings in San Clemente, Mission Viejo and Dana Point in an effort to educate the public regarding the proposals and to gather input. The 30-day public-comment period has been extended to 90 days, closing on Feb. 7.

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