EHL has urged land use planning alternatives to a new highway through the Cleveland National Forest
between Orange and Riverside Counties.
transportation agencies are conducting a “major investment study” for
ways to relieve congestion on the 91 freeway, which largely results
from Riverside County bedroom communities commuting to Orange County.
EHL serves on the study’s stakeholder advisory committee. Besides
improvements to the existing corridor, new routes are being evaluated
that affect the National Forest as well as habitat reserves.
A relatively benign tunnel, consistent with Riverside’s Multiple
Species Habitat Conservation Plan, is one possibility. However, as a
detailed letter authored by EHL and endorsed by other groups pointed out,
technical uncertainties and looming costs could
force conversion to a predominantly surface route that causes
irretrievable fragmentation of habitat. The good news is that by
improving planning to better align jobs and housing, regional traffic
demand can be markedly reduced. High-speed rail and
dedicated truck lanes may also help offer solutions.
With the support of EHL, a policy committee of elected officials
adopted a sensible, phased approach that quickly undertakes
improvements in the 91 corridor, with future decision points reserved
for the tunnel, and with elimination of a highly damaging option along
the Ortega Highway.