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California Needs Rail, Not Roads

<p>The recent vote against a new toll freeway in Orange County signals that California's don't want more roads. Instead, transportation dollars should go to building the state's high-speed rail system.</p>
April 5, 2008, 11am PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"The recent 8-2 California Coastal Commission vote against the Foothill-South Toll Road extension through Orange County may have been bad news for those who like to build and drive on crowded freeways, but it was great news for the traveling public.

Besides underscoring strong concerns about potential long-term environmental damage in a project of this type and size, the lopsided vote sent out an important message: Californians are tired of the freeways-as-usual approach that creates more traffic congestion, not less.

The Transportation Corridor Agency, the Orange County entity behind the extension of the toll road through San Onofre State Beach, says it will appeal the ruling to the U.S. secretary of commerce because the road is considered a federal project. But the betting is that the Coastal Commission's ruling will not be reversed, and even if it were, the agency would have to go back to the Coastal Commission for final approval.

What the commission really said is that if close to $1 billion is available to build this project, let's use it on projects that will deliver more bang for the buck, reduce environmental impacts and energy use, and make a real dent in the highway congestion that plagues Orange County and most of California.

And that means high-speed rail. The $1 billion its sponsors wanted to spend on a toll road could go a long way toward paying for the cost of that portion of the state's high-speed rail plan that could take travelers from Los Angeles to San Diego in 55 minutes and from Irvine to either of those cities in less than a half-hour while eliminating a lot of congestion on Interstate 5, not only in Orange County but along the entire route."

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Published on Friday, April 4, 2008 in The Sacramento Bee
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