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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

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Does Trouble for the Toll Road Mean Trouble for the Ranch?

With the recent defeat suffered by the 241 and Transportation Corridor Agencies at the hands of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, some are wondering whether there will be an impact on the future development of the Ranch Plan.  Does trouble for the toll road mean trouble for the Ranch?  The short answer is no.  Contrary to some public statements, the two projects were never linked and approval of one is not a condition to completion of the other.  The Ranch Plan was approved independent of the 241 Tesoro Extension.  Rancho Mission Viejo Company specifically addresses this on its FAQ page:

Q: Is the Foothill Transportation Corridor (the tollroad) being extended to Cow Camp Road as a result of Sendero and the other villages to be developed on The Ranch?

A: No, due to the SCRIP program, development on The Ranch is not dependent on the Foothill Transportation Corridor.   According to Transportation Corridor Agency projections, development on The Ranch will represent just 4% of the total traffic in South Orange County over the next decades.

Nevertheless, the SCRIP program was designed to identify and collect funds to construct current and future traffic relieving transportation improvements in the South Orange County area.  Total cost of SCRIP is in excess of $300 million of which Rancho Mission Viejo, LLC will provide about half of the costs – even though development on The Ranch will represent just 4% of the total traffic in South County over the next decades.

Clearly, similar to the need for the La Pata Gap Closure, South Orange County desperately needs additional north/south highways and arterials.  (It also needs east/west arterials, but that’s another subject.)  The 241 would have filled that north/south need, even if built in segments as proposed.  Freeways (or toll roads) are superior to surface streets for the simple reason that they move more vehicles, more quickly.  That being said, the 241 is a complement to, but not a substitute for, the northbound 5.  A freeway would have been nice, but it is not necessary.  As a result, that north/south function can be filled by a high capacity public roadway.  As you can see from the image below, the Ranch Plan was approved for both scenarios in which the 241 was built and in which it wasn’t.  (Click here for a high resolution version.)

Ranch Plan Roads with and without the 241 Extension

The “new” north/south roadway that would replace the 241 is currently called “F” Street, and it would nearly mirror the proposed route of the 241.  It is unclear whether it could be extended south to Planning Area 8 and San Clemente like future proposed 241 segments, but one imagines that doing so would be logical, if not inevitable.  None of this is alarmingly urgent.  The Tesoro Extension (or in the alternative, F Street) would impact Planning Area 2 of the Ranch Plan, which is currently in the planning stages with the goal of commencing construction later this year.  For now, we imagine the TCA will appeal the San Diego decision and the fight will go on.  Surely, at some point in the next couple years, County officials will need to make a decision whether to build the 241 or abandon it and build F Street, but either way, the Ranch Plan will remain largely unaffected.

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