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O.C. Superior Court Judge Blocks San Joaquin Hills Toll Road Work

An Orange County Superior Court judge, ruling that “the public may have been misled” by the terms of a 1989 agreement, blocked work Friday on a 1.2-acre section of the San Joaquin Hills toll road, a 17.5-mile highway linking Newport Beach and San Juan Capistrano.

Judge Eileen C. Moore issued a temporary restraining order halting any work on the section, which once was part of the UC Irvine campus.

The acreage, according to attorneys for the tollway agencies, UCI and several environmental groups, is the subject of two environmental impact reports, in 1989 and 1991, aimed at protecting more than 50 acres of biologically sensitive land. The parcel in dispute is at the edge of the larger tract.

Susan L. Durbin, an attorney representing two environmental groups, the Open Space Coalition and the Sea and Sage Audubon Society, said, “We’re elated, just elated” by the judge’s ruling.

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The order, Durbin said, will prevent any irreparable damage to the land “until we have had a chance to vindicate the environmental rights involved,” when the future of the tollway is decided at a Nov. 5 trial.

Michael Stockstill, a spokesman for the Transportation Corridor Agencies, said agency officials were disappointed with the ruling. “It’s going to have an impact,” he said.

Stockstill said he would meet with the toll road’s contractor Monday to determine how the ruling will affect overall construction. Stockstill noted that there are another 13 miles of tollway under construction to occupy workers in the meantime.


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