On March 12, 2020, the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) selected a route for further study that satisfies our settlement agreement and builds further consensus.
Back in 2016, after years of litigation and a victory at the Coastal Commission, EHL and the Save San Onofre Coalition reached a landmark settlement agreement with the TCA. That agreement – and related agreements with State agencies – protected San Onofre State Beach and other high value habitat from a highway. We also put in place a Conservation Fund to further protect the San Mateo Creek Watershed. Since then, EHL has collaborated with TCA on developing a full range of options in an environmental impact report.
One option that would have connected with Interstate 5 was opposed by the City of Clemente. Not waiting for the CEQA process to run its course, the City and a homeowners association precipitously filed litigation against the agreements, raising the specter of returning to a route through the park. After analyzing many alternatives, the TCA voted to advance a project that stops short of developed parts of San Clemente and connects to major arterials. Reflecting updated information on regional transportation needs, the road would not be tolled and is now called Los Patrones Parkway Extension. It fits our settlement agreement, addresses the City's concerns, and would likely be complemented by future improvements to I-5. EHL now proposes to work with the County of Orange, the new lead agency, and the TCA, on proper biological mitigation.
While the main litigation against the settlement agreement was decided in our favor, parts of the lawsuit remain active. And given that other transportation agencies besides TCA are not bound by the settlement agreement, it remains necessary to shore up long term protections for the park with state legislation, which is currently active in the Legislature.