Environmentalists file suit over Orange County toll road extension plans

SAN DIEGO – Environmentalists filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block the extension of a toll road in southern Orange County, five years after widespread public opposition stopped a similar project.

The lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court argues that plans for a 5.5-mile extension to the south State Route 241 toll road don’t meet basic environmental requirements.

Widespread opposition in 2008 killed a proposed 16-mile toll road extension linking south Orange County and northern San Diego County.

The California Coastal Commission rejected that project, which would have bisected San Onofre State Beach.

That is not part of the current proposal by the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, but opponents say the plan is nonetheless an illegitimate end-run around an already-rejected project.

“This illegal segment is a desperate attempt to perpetuate a project which is so contrary to the public interest,” said Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League, one of the groups who filed the lawsuit. “TCA’s existing toll roads are a financial disaster, and we shouldn’t throw good money after bad”

TCA Spokeswoman Lori Olin said the agency expected the lawsuit but she had not seen it and couldn’t comment specifically on its claims.

But she said there are no plans to extend the road beyond the 5.5-mile extension currently proposed, so concerns about San Onofre beach are unfounded.

She said the addition is necessary to alleviate traffic brought by a 14,000-home development and 5 million square feet of commercial space going up in the area where the extension would end.