At the request of two high-ranking state officials, directors of Orange County's turnpike authority on Thursday postponed a decision to build the Foothill South tollway through San Onofre State Beach.
Sunne Wright McPeak, secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing, and Mike Chrisman, secretary of State Resources, sought the delay to give state officials more time to evaluate the highway's environmental impact report, made public just before the holidays.
"This matter is extremely complex. We respectfully request additional time for the administration to review comments and concerns raised by state departments and stakeholders," the Cabinet officers stated in a Jan. 18 letter to the Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies.
The TCA is planning to build a 16-mile extension of the Foothill Eastern tollway from Rancho Santa Margarita to Interstate 5 in or near San Clemente. The agency's environmental impact report recommends that the highway go through San Onofre, a popular coastal park in northern San Diego County that contains endangered species, unspoiled watersheds and world- renowned surf spots.
The proposed route is opposed by park users, environmentalists, state officials and three cities -- Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo and Oceanside. The State Park and Recreation Commission also has recommended that the Schwarzenegger administration oppose the route.
TCA board members Thursday voted 12 to 3 to postpone their vote until Feb. 23. Opponents of the delay chided McPeak and Chrisman, saying the state has had years to study the tollway proposal.
"There has been 20 years of discussion. It has not been secretive in any shape or form," said Lake Forest City Councilman Peter Herzog, a TCA board member.
"This is the most analyzed road that will ever be built."