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Toll Road Agency Sues Over Pipelines

May 31, 1996|FRANK MESSINA

A dispute over who should pay the cost of moving water lines in the path of the San Joaquin Hills toll road has gone to court.

Alleging that the Moulton Niguel Water District is responsible for all relocation costs of the lines along the tollway in Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo, the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court last week.

The lawsuit states that the water district was advanced money in 1994 to cover the cost and has refused to reimburse the tollway agency.

Toll road officials say permits that allowed the water district to install the pipelines also obligate the agency to pay fully for relocating utility lines in case of future highway improvements.

The water district "has breached such permits and its agreement" with the tollway agency, according to the lawsuit, which seeks reimbursement of $1.359 million in construction costs.

Water district officials, however, say the permits require them to pay only in case of street improvements, not to support initial construction.

"That's a different purpose than just widening a road," said Carlo Habash, director of engineering for the district.

Lisa Telles, spokeswoman for the tollway agency, said the road should be viewed the same as a major street or highway.

The tollway "is a public works project," she said. "Our position is that it is Moulton Niguel's responsibility to pay" for relocating the pipelines.

A portion of the road between Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel is expected to open July 24.

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