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Update on CalTrans Project for Laguna Canyon Road

As you might have heard, for the past few years CalTrans has been looking at widening Laguna Canyon Road near the intersection of El Toro Road. This project, which is actually broken down into three different components, originally consisted of:

  • Outbound Laguna Canyon Road: extending the second lane at the intersection of El Toro Road to provide two consistent outbound lanes from El Toro Road to the 73. We’d also have a shoulder and a bike lane, and the power poles on this side of LCR would be undergrounded.
  • Inbound Laguna Canyon Road Drainage Improvements: a large retention basin would be constructed near the 73, and an articulated block channel drainage constructed alongside Laguna Canyon Road.
  • Inbound Laguna Canyon Road Widening: South of El Toro Road, the merge lane would have been extended all the way past the entrance to the Willow parking lot!

For more information about the project as originally proposed, you can read our original story 

Laguna Canyon Foundation has long been concerned about the environmental impacts of the third component of this project as proposed. We fought for on-site mitigation, meaning environmental impacts would have to be addressed in the same location as the work being done, rather than miles away. We lobbied for thoughtful design of the undergrounding, to limit the amount of impacted native habitat. We asked for traffic studies and data to show how this proposal would improve safety on Laguna Canyon Road.

And most importantly, we called on people like you. The environmental community showed up in droves at the community meeting CalTrans held, and at the follow-up Q and A that Laguna Canyon Foundation and CANDO (the Canyon Area Neighborhoods Defense Organization) held to answer specific questions. We came together the way passionate environmentalists came together in 1989 to Save the Canyon, and we asked CalTrans to look long and hard at the specifics of what they were proposing.

We made it clear we wouldn’t stand for anything other than the most intelligent, forward-thinking, holistic plan for our beloved canyon.

And CalTrans listened.

As of November 2019, CalTrans has changed the scope of their proposed project to one we’ve been asking them to study for almost two years.

  • The outbound project stays the same. We support this portion of the project—the abbreviated merge lane doesn’t make sense and the environmental impacts aren’t too bad.
  • The inbound drainage project stays the same. We’re not thrilled with this, but with thoughtful replanting and mitigation, we think this can work.
  • The inbound widening project is off the table. Instead, CalTrans is proposing adding an entrance to Anneliese’s School directly off of El Toro Road. This would make the merge lane extension very minor and would eliminate impacts to the park!

Let’s go into a little more detail on what this would actually mean. In its current conceptual form, which is subject to change of course, it would mean that families turning left into or out of Anneliese would use the entrance off of El Toro. No more cars backing up waiting to turn left into Anneliese, or making that dangerous turn back into town.

Just that alone means that the merge lane doesn’t need to be extended nearly as far! The oak trees that have stood for hundreds of years will be untouched. The rock formations that form what we consider the entrance into our town will be preserved.

There’s still a lot to look into. What are the biological impacts of this new driveway? How much habitat, and what kind of habitat, will that impact? Are there sensitive paleontological resources we need to protect? What about archeological resources? All of those studies need to be completed before we can truly determine if this is a win for the land.

But for today, we’re raising our glasses to all of you who made it loud and clear that you wouldn’t stand for what CalTrans originally proposed. You came through for our parks, and because of that, we’re all going to be better off.

Here’s to you, to CalTrans for keeping their minds open and inviting us to a seat at the table, and most of all, here’s to those oak trees.

Here’s to our canyon!