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LAGUNA NIGUEL : Businesses Fear Ruin From Tollway

Debate over the proposed San Joaquin Hills toll road often revolves around two questions: How will the environment fare if the road is built, and how bad will traffic get if it isn’t?

But for a group of Laguna Niguel merchants whose businesses may be in the tollway’s path, there is a third question: Will the tollway jeopardize their economic survival?

Since learning recently that 15 businesses would be condemned and the main route to 100 others eliminated under one road plan--called Alignment No. 2--the merchants say their futures have become increasingly cloudy.

“It’s very uncertain at this moment,” said Dave Knappen, general manager of Allen Oldsmobile/Cadillac Inc., one of the larger businesses facing possible condemnation. The dealership, a fixture for 18 years, could shut down as early as this summer, Knappen said.

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The fate of the businesses lies with how the tollway will connect with Interstate 5. One plan links the roads just south of Avery Parkway in San Juan Capistrano, while a second option would hook the corridor to the freeway just north of Avery in Laguna Niguel.

The latter plan would sever the main access to 100 businesses that snake along Camino Capistrano, a commercial strip along Interstate 5. The replacement road would lengthen the distance between businesses and potential customers by a mile.

The potential loss of business could cost Laguna Niguel $1 million a year in lost tax revenues, City Manager Tim Casey said.


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