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California

Poll: 78% oppose pushing toll road through San Onofre preserve

Tollway poll
Traffic on the often congested Interstate 5 in south Orange County.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The vast majority of registered voters in Orange County oppose construction of a new tollway through popular San Onofre State Beach, according to a public opinion poll.

The California State Parks Foundation, a longtime opponent of building a highway in the coastal preserve, found that 78% of voters do not favor such a project and 64% strongly oppose the idea.

Pollsters interviewed a random sample of 402 registered voters across the county last month.

Foundation officials say they conducted the survey because they believe the Transportation Corridor Agencies in Irvine, which operates 51 miles of tollways in Orange County, still wants to extend one of its highways, State Route 241, across San Onofre to link up with Interstate 5.

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The controversial proposal was rejected in 2008 by the California Coastal Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce after a lengthy battle between the TCA and park users, surfers, environmentalists and various community organizations.

TCA officials insist they are no longer planning a route through the preserve, which includes a popular campground and the well-known Trestles surf break.

In April, the agency canceled its environmental studies for the 241 project and announced it would pursue less ambitious alternatives to reduce traffic congestion.

“That’s not true,” Lisa Telles said of the foundation’s assertion that a San Onofre alignment was still on the table.

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“We’ve just been talking about handling traffic in the future and looking at some type of alternative to Interstate 5. There is no specific route at this point.”

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