SAN FRANCISCO -- The California State Parks Foundation today released a new survey which found 78 percent of registered voters in Orange County oppose the proposed toll road connecting California State Route 241 (SR 241) to US Interstate 5 (I-5) through San Onofre State Beach, with 64 percent strongly opposed. The poll also showed stronger support for alternatives to reduce traffic congestion without damaging the park.
“Orange County voters continue to overwhelmingly oppose the Transportation Corridor Agencies' proposal to build their toll road through San Onofre State Beach – California's fifth most popular state park,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation.
The survey was conducted between August 19 and August 24, 2014, to gauge the opinion of Orange County voters regarding the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA); its proposed Tesoro Extension; and its ultimate plans to extend SR 241 through San Onofre State Beach, which would cause the closure of 60 percent of the park. The poll was conducted by a bipartisan public opinion research team including Voter/Consumer Research (Republican) and David Binder Research (Democratic).
Opposition to the proposal was found in all parts of Orange County; among all demographic groups; across party registration; among voters of each age group; and among both men and women. The poll found the toll road was opposed by 71 percent of Republican voters, 84 percent of Democratic voters, and 80 percent of Independents.
When voters were asked to choose, 78 percent believe it is more important to “protect state parks and beaches so they continue to be available for public use,” as compared to only 16 percent who believe it is more important to “build additional toll roads to help relieve traffic congestion.”
Voters also ranked the proposed toll road a distant last when asked to choose between four alternatives to reduce congestion in Orange County:
When asked directly to choose between widening I-5 and building the toll road through the park, 81 percent chose widening I-5 and only 14 percent chose the toll road option.
"The public knows the 241 toll road project isn't needed and the irreparable damage it would cause to parks and our beaches can be avoided," said Goldstein.
In 2008, both the California Coastal Commission and then-President George Bush's U.S. Department of Commerce rejected TCA's request to approve the toll road, citing the avoidable damage the road would cause and the availability of feasible alternatives. In reviewing the project, Coastal Commission staff concluded that “it would be difficult to imagine a more environmentally damaging alternative for the proposed toll road.”
Last June, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board denied TCA a water quality permit TCA would need to construct the first third of the toll road project (Tesoro Extension). TCA's appeal of this decision will be considered by the State Water Resources Control Board on September 23.
"Despite being repeatedly told they can't build their damaging toll road through the park, TCA continues to waste tens of millions of public dollars on this ill-conceived project," said Goldstein.
TCA has spent more than $300 million in public funds to design and lobby for the 241 extension. Despite several setbacks, the TCA board approved more than $25 million in additional public spending for the 241 extension project at its June 12, 2014 hearing.
According to the poll, 73% of Orange County voters would “prohibit the Transportation Corridor Agencies from using toll revenues to build any new toll roads and to require it to use toll revenues to speed up payment on its $2.3 billion bond debt, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in interest costs.”
About the Survey
The survey results are based on 402 phone interviews with registered voters county-wide in Orange County conducted between August 19 and August 24, 2014. The margin of error associated with the results is +/- 4.9%.
About San Onofre State Beach
San Onofre State Beach is the fifth-most visited park in California, attracting nearly 1.5 million visitors every year. The park contains significant portions of San Mateo Creek, one of the last unspoiled watersheds in California. According to California State Parks, the toll road will close 60 percent of the park and cause damage to the remaining land.
About California State Parks Foundation
With its 130,000 members, the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF) is the only independent nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, enhancing and advocating for California's magnificent state parks. For more information about California's state parks, visit calparks.org.
September 17, 2014