Guest Column: Don't be Fooled – Let’s Press for Real Solutions for Ortega!

                                                   By Mayor Pro Tem Kerry Ferguson

The original plan submitted by Rancho Mission Viejo Company (“RMV Co.”) to the County was to build 5,000 homes east of San Juan Capistrano, leading the County to take an important east-west arterial road near Avery Parkway off the County map.

In 2000 however, the RMV Co. increased the number of homes they wanted to build to 14,000 but instead of putting the east-west arterial back on the map, they pushed for widening Ortega as a solution for the greatly increased congestion. In San Juan Capistrano, there was understandable fear that our history-rich village would be overrun by a new community to the east and made little more than a doormat for the RMV Co’s increased traffic. In fact, former mayor Wyatt Hart once told the LA Times: "This city was well planned. Our problem is the other communities; widening would only push the city toward the failing point."

In the 2002, our city paid $200,000 for a Strategic Transportation Plan. Civil Engineer Les Card
looked at the entire region and made 11 recommendations which included putting the east-west arterial between the 73 Toll Road and Antonio Parkway; extending La Pata; adding lanes to I-5; adding another north-south route to I-5 south of San Clemente, and last on the list; adding two lanes to Ortega Highway. Mr. Card made it clear that widening the Ortega without committing to or completing the other 10 improvements would only add to our congestion.
Now, with the new homes, new high school; with the Ortega as the only route to the 73
Toll Road for Sendero and Esencia, and with county and local trash trucks using the Ortega exclu-
sively to reach the dump, traffic has increased. What is needed is not just two lanes, but another route to the 73 and a route to I-5 south of San Clemente. We need the east-west arterial near Avery.

Unfortunately, until now, only two of the five top recommendations have been committed to or
completed. And yet, the RMV Co., Brad Gates and others, including Councilman Allevato,
have continued to push for the widening, surely knowing that it won't help with congestion or safety - unless the five recommendations come first.

Rather than taking responsibility for building the road that truly is needed for their development, the RMV Co. would only contribute $450,000 to adding nine tenths of a mile, a project that
would cost $30 million. The taxpayers would have to come up with the rest. We would also lose more than 100 mature trees, have ugly sound walls and have even worse congestion. Ironically, it is people like Wyatt Hart who would likely be pleased as they would be able to sell unusable portions of their property for hundreds of thousands dollars.

Another issue that has been raised has been WILDLY MISREPRESENTED is SAFETY.
Those who sent a letter to residents recently claimed there were 37 accidents on that stretch of
Ortega in 2015 alone. UNTRUE! Per City Traffic Engineer George Alvarez, there were only 6 accidents – a huge difference. Furthermore, in a statistical study from Mr. Alvarez, the number of accidents in that stretch over 5 YEARS was only 24. The comparable stretch on Del Obispo yielded 133 accidents in 5 years.

Demonstrably, the slowing traffic through that narrower portion of Ortega is safer for motorists. What is really sickening in the letter sent to residents is the pro-widening group's use, for political gain, of the poor girl who crashed head-on into a truck at 2:30AM. That tragic crash was reported immediately by our Sheriff’s department as not road-related. The medical report has not yet been released, but when it is, it will most certainly bear that out.

REAL SOLUTIONS to our mobility problems are for the RMV Co. and TCA to create the essential east-west connection between Avery Parkway, the 73 Toll Road and Antonio Parkway and/or Ortega Highway. That could take as much as 20% of the traffic off our Ortega Highway.

Several other measures that can help to reduce congestion and improve safety include; “Do Not Block” signage at intersections, express left turn lanes similar to the one for exiting at the Golf Club, and “No Turn on Right “signage on La Novia at Ortega. Caltrans and OCTA are already working on improvements such as these.

Don't be fooled by the lure of a "quick fix." It might feel good initially, but it won't be long before the road will be once again be clogged, leaving our town with no trees, 24-foot sound walls like a freeway.

Let’s Demand Real Solutions! That's where real safety and freedom to move really lie!

1 comment:

Jack said...

Thanks for posting this article and making people aware of the situation. I hope all the issues are addressed and prompt actions are taken to resolve them.

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