Orange County Toll Road Opponents Voice Concerns

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The proposed 241 Toll Road extension is making its way through an appeals process to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. This, after the California Coastal Commission in February slammed the brakes on plans for the road through South Orange County. KPCC's Susan Valot says the 241 extension's not dead yet.

Susan Valot: Both sides on the 241 Toll Road extension have filed briefs with the Commerce Department as it considers the appeal. Joel Reynolds is an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups against the toll road.

He says they're worried the Transportation Corridor Agencies, the agency in charge of the toll roads, is trying to get the Bush Administration to overturn the state Coastal Commission's ruling before the President leaves office. Reynolds says the Bush Administration has a history of stepping in in California.

Joel Reynolds: We've seen this before on climate change, in California's clean car waiver request, on training with military sonar off our Southern California coast, on roads through our National Forests.

Valot: But Jennifer Seaton of the Transportation Corridor Agencies says Mr. Bush has no role in this matter. She says the appeal is to the Secretary of Commerce, not the president.

Jennifer Seaton: Political representatives from both sides are already involved. And we hope that the secretary will make a decision based on the facts.

Valot: Seaton says the toll road agency sent a letter asking the Commerce Secretary to decide the appeal without a public hearing. She says the Coastal Commission hearing was a "circus," and not everyone got a chance to weigh in. But if the Secretary holds a hearing, she says the toll road agency wants it more organized and in Orange County.

The Commerce Department hasn't decided what to do. It'll start taking public comment Monday. It could wrap up the appeal as soon as November. Until then, the toll road agency is trying to secure other permits it needs to build the 241 Toll Road extension.