SANTA ANA — A federal judge allowed construction to proceed Tuesday on the embattled San Joaquin Hills tollway, rejecting a plea by environmentalists seeking to protect some of south Orange County's undeveloped coastal hills.
However, U.S. District Judge Linda McLaughlin limited the construction to the two ends of the 17.5-mile stretch of proposed tollway, sparing the most controversial sections of the project in Laguna and Bommer canyons.
The area blocked from construction, which was to begin within days, is between El Toro Road and a point just south of Newport Coast Drive.
McLaughlin's order was a victory for tollway officials who said most--but not all--of their concerns were met. Tollway officials said court-ordered delays were costing about $250,000 a day. They said Mclaughlin's order still means there will be delays, but the added cost has not been determined.