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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Crowd Protests Plan for Tollway Linkup

A crowd of nearly 200 angry residents packed City Council chambers this week to protest the planned route of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor.

The proposed tollway would feed into Interstate 5 in the north end of the city, near Avery Parkway, posing a condemnation threat to several businesses in the area.

The tollway will extend the Corona del Mar Freeway to San Juan Capistrano, traversing coastal hills.

Because of the crowd, Mayor Kenneth E. Friess tentatively rescheduled the public hearing Jan. 8 at Marco Forster Junior High School. At least 50 people could not enter the council chambers and had to stand in the lobby of City Hall, unable to hear the proceedings.

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Most residents attending demanded that the corridor be stopped, which city officials said is impossible.

“There’s not a damn thing we can do, because this is not a city street,” Friess said in an earlier interview. “The corridor is coming, and it’s not a matter of whether we can defeat it. We can only monitor it to see that its impact is minimal.”

The San Joaquin Transportation Corridor Agency, which is building the tollway, is proposing two options for the Avery Parkway interchange and has been asking Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano for comment.

One option would drop the tollway onto Interstate 5 without disturbing Avery Parkway near its intersection with Camino Capistrano. The second option would destroy the present intersection and its businesses, replacing the thoroughfare by extending Via Escolar under Interstate 5 to connect with Camino Capistrano.

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Almost all of the crowd was from the Village San Juan neighborhood in the northern part of the city along Rancho Viejo Road. The residents were angry about letters sent by a citizen who erroneously said homes in that area would be destroyed by the corridor interchange and a separate project by state transportation officials to widen Interstate 5.

Dean Steinke, president of the 690-member homeowners’ association for Village San Juan, said that the homes would remain but that a sound wall would probably be built along Rancho Viejo Road. The neighborhood is also concerned about a plan to build an on-ramp to the corridor about a half-mile north of Village San Juan, near Spotted Bull Lane, a quiet enclave of custom homes.

“We were concerned that the on-ramp would come right in our front doors,” Steinke said. “We didn’t know what this would all mean, and we were looking for some answers.”

City officials warned that the California Department of Transportation can widen the freeway with or without the council’s blessing. Corridor plans are governed jointly by several agencies at the city, county and state levels.

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