EHL has urged land use planning alternatives to a new highway through the Cleveland National Forest between Orange and Riverside Counties.

Local 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.