A new hope for commuters struggling with traffic congestion on the Costa Mesa Freeway was unveiled by city and county officials Thursday with fanfare and a dash of controversy.
For the first time, a 5-mile extension of Jamboree Road was opened to commuters Thursday. The $30-million addition stretches from Irvine Boulevard in Tustin to Santiago Canyon Road in Orange.
Within the next year, officials plan to extend the road even farther, through the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Jamboree Road, originally a wagon trail through the hills, will eventually run from Balboa Island in Newport Beach through the Marine base, providing an alternative to the frequently jammed Costa Mesa Freeway.
"It won't take long for the word to get out that this is a good shortcut, which is what we want," said Tustin City Manager William A. Huston. "We want the traffic to be distributed better."
At a breakfast ceremony, officials likened the opening of the new stretch of Jamboree Road to the completion of the transcontinental railroad. But while the mood of the ceremony was festive, with an antique car race and red, white and blue decorations, there were also critics present.
Joining the crowd of about 200 were eight Tustin residents carrying yellow signs protesting the proposed Eastern Transportation Corridor and urging officials to save Peters Canyon Regional Park.
Neither the concern about the transportation corridor nor the concern about development of the park area is related to the Jamboree Road extension. But the protesters used the gathering to sound an alarm about rapid development of Orange County.
"We want to save our canyons," said Margarita Clayton of Cowan Heights. "We don't want a freeway through here."
Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez suggested that the protesters attend meetings of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency or park planners to register their concerns.