Letter to the Editor

                                            Kudos to the Council for Protecting Ortega         

Having researched the widening of Ortega Highway for the past ten years, I am dismayed by the misinformation being given to the public about this issue.   

The issue is not about simply eliminating a perceived “chokepoint”. In fact, lane reduction is a proven safety measure called “traffic calming” which is used to reduce accidents.  

What this issue is really about is a landowner/developer’s need to have adequate “road capacity” in order to complete build out of their planned developments to the east. Contrary to what some have said, the landowner does NOT automatically have the entitlements to build 14,000 homes and 5 million square feet of commercial/retail space; he must first demonstrate to the county that there is adequate “road capacity” to accommodate the thousands of vehicle trips per day generated by each new development phase. 
Getting the taxpayers to pick up the lion’s share of the 30 million dollar tab for the widening is what has really been behind the push to widen the road. Elimination of the so-called “chokepoint” opens the door to further widening.
Now you might ask, can’t the developer just pay to build the roads that they need in order to handle all of their traffic? Of course, and we SJC residents should demand that the developer do just that. The developer can and should put in their own road on their own land, with their own money, to accommodate their own traffic. The developer’s original plan was to build an east-west arterial road to the north on their own land (listed as a top priority in the 2002 Strategic Transportation Plan), which would redirect hundreds of thousands of vehicle trips away from Ortega.
We should applaud Council members Patterson, Ferguson and Perry, who stood up to protect our town from Ortega becoming the freeway on-and-off ramp to the I-5, by voting NO to the Ortega widening redesign project. Instead, these council members suggested initiating a study for a traffic signal in the project area and road improvements. 

Hundreds of San Juan residents signed petitions years ago, demanding that the landowner divert the traffic from their 14,000 homes away from our town and save Ortega from the widening. Currently, there is little doubt that the vast majority of residents who understand what is really going on, agree that the false narrative of “Increasing safety” seems to be the latest cornerstone of the argument used by the promoters of the widening. 

It has already been pointed out to the Council that the data used to support the need for widening was faulty (Level of Service/”LOS”, agenda timeline and accident rate study). Information claiming the project area qualified as a “high traffic accident location” was presented as fact to the council, however, nothing could be further from the truth. After I obtained the correct accident rate figures (approximately two weeks after the council vote), the documentation clearly showed that not only was the area NOT a high accident location, it was in fact nearly 400% safer than the comparable referenced road. Hence, the Ortega project can actually be considered as a “low traffic accident” location, thus supporting the premise that the reduced lane area actually does have a traffic calming effect. 

Thanks again to Council members Perry, Patterson and Ferguson for saying NO to 24-foot high sound walls, increased traffic, accidents, congestion, pollution, noise, destruction of our scenic highway, and the San Juan Capistrano charm that would have been jackhammered away if they had voted to approve the redesign of the widening of Ortega.  

Lennie DeCaro
San Juan Capistrano

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