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Toll Roads and HOV Lanes

March 14, 1993

Advocating jobs over environment ("A Worthy Project Gets Off the Ground," editorial, March 3) misses the unfortunate fact that the ill-conceived and embattled San Joaquin Hills toll road serves neither interest. In the most polluted air basin in the United States, it is a project that makes no environmental, transportation, or economic sense.

Not only would it devastate the last coastal open space in Orange County--including the irreplaceable natural resources of the Laguna Greenbelt--the eight-lane toll road would aggravate the intractable air quality problems that plague the South Coast Air Basin, without any lasting reduction in traffic congestion. Rather than advancing rapid transit, car pooling, or other progressive transportation policies, the toll road would facilitate more auto-dependent suburban sprawl, perpetuating the air basin's status as the nation's only extreme non-attainment area for ozone. Indeed, under a non-competition agreement between the Orange County toll road agency and Caltrans, progressive transportation alternatives to the toll road would be prohibited for over 35 years.

Although promoted as privately funded, the San Joaquin Hills toll road may require substantial public support, including a massive $321 million federal bailout as part of the stimulus package now being considered by Congress. This amount, augmenting $120 million in federal loan guarantees approved for the toll road project in the waning days of the Bush Administration and $110 million in state funds, would generate few new jobs, while wreaking havoc on the very natural resources that draw residents and visitors to the region.

In an era of scarce financial and natural resources, surely there are better ways to create jobs in Orange County. JOEL R. REYNOLDS, Senior Attorney

Natural Resources Defense Council

Los Angeles

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