Corps Rebukes Toll Road Agency Over Highway Project

Sat May 10, 2008 - West Edition

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has accused a toll road agency of making false statements in its attempts to get permission to build a toll road through a state park and near a world-class surf beach.

In a letter, the corps’ Los Angeles district director said his agency “at no time” ruled out other, less controversial routes for the toll road despite information contained in a federal appeal by the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA).

The state Coastal Commission blocked construction of the toll road through San Onofre State Beach earlier this year, citing environmental concerns. The TCA is now appealing that decision to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“I am compelled to highlight a few areas of the public record where I have found inaccurate statements as well as inferences that misrepresent the Corps’ preliminary determinations,” Col. Thomas H. Magness wrote to the department.

TCA officials denied the allegations.

The agency’s director, Jerry Amante, said he reread TCA’s appeal and Magness’ letter and found nothing misleading in the wording of the appeal.

“Let’s be honest,” he said. “The letter was probably written as a result of pressure being put on the corps by environmentalists.”

The 16-mi. (25.7 km), $875 million road would be the final link in Orange County’s network of toll roads. It is intended to alleviate congestion on Interstate 5 between Orange County and San Diego.

In March, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who supports the road, declined to renew the state Parks Commission terms of actor-director Clint Eastwood and Bobby Shriver, the governor’s brother-in-law. Both Eastwood and Shriver oppose the road.