CalTrans (California Department of Transportation) is proposing changes to the 133 (aka Laguna Canyon Road), running through our canyon. In the recently released environmental reports, the proposed project includes:
- Road widening at El Toro Rd.
- Extending the second northbound (outbound) lane from El Toro Road by an additional 1200 feet.
- Extending the second southbound (inbound) lane on 133 by an additional 900 feet.
- Adding an eight-foot shoulder and bike lane on both sides.
- Installing an articulated concrete block channel in the riparian (riverine) area on the southbound (inbound) side before reaching El Toro Rd.
- Undergrounding utility lines between El Toro road and the 73, on the northbound side of the road.
While Laguna Canyon Foundation supports making our roads safer for drivers and bicyclists, we do not believe that the proposed project actually accomplishes this. We are very concerned about the environmental impacts of the project. Working alongside our partners in the environmental community, we have developed the following comments on the CalTrans proposal.
- The second northbound (outbound) lane from El Toro Rd. could reasonably be extended 1200 feet without significant environmental impact. The addition of an eight-foot-wide bike lane and shoulder alongside that northbound (outbound) lane from El Toro Rd can be accommodated with minimal environmental impact with careful design. However, the current plan calls for undergrounding utilities outside this additional eight-foot shoulder and travel lane. The additional land needed for undergrounding (which requires a hard surface), dramatically expands this proposal’s environmental impact. It will require a significant additional take of open space. We support this portion of the project only if the utilities are undergrounded within the proposed eight-foot shoulder.
- The channelization of the riparian area on the inbound side will have serious visual impacts and riparian habitat impacts. While we understand the desire to make this channel easier to maintain and thus reduce flooding, offsite mitigation or the purchase of mitigation credits is not acceptable in this area. This fragile riparian habitat must be mitigated both visually and habitat wise, at least in part, on-site.
- The 900-foot extension of the southbound (inbound) lane on the 133 past El Toro Rd. is the area of most concern. The road widening would dip into parkland where Stagecoach South Trail runs along the 133. The existing hillside would be engineered into a 1 ½:1 slope, extending 40 feet into the park. In addition, their proposed lane extension would move the merge location down past the Willow park entrance parking lot. We do not believe this proposal could be completed without dramatic impacts on the park and the parking lot. Specifically:
- Existing rock structures and native habitat would be destroyed.
- Up to 14 mature oak trees would be removed, to be mitigated within OC Parks but not on site.
- The slope steepness would require erosion control and stabilization measures that would make effective restoration of the slope difficult. Think about the southbound side of Laguna Canyon Road across from the Sawdust festival.
- Traffic in and out of the Willow Parking Lot would now require crossing two lanes of incoming traffic, making an already difficult turn even more treacherous.
- CalTrans has not studied the traffic patterns of this parking lot. This project is based on incomplete data that does not take into consideration the thousands of cars that use this parking lot each year.
- All aspects of this project include CalTrans style guard rails, turning Laguna Canyon Road past El Toro into the same freeway style roads we see all over Orange County.
At a total cost of approximately $39MM, with an estimated 10 power poles removed and their lines undergrounded, this project’s environmental, visual and fiscal impacts are severe and irresponsible.
Laguna Canyon Foundation cannot support a proposal that drastically impacts park land, has substantial monetary costs, and increases the danger and difficulty of exiting and entering Willow parking lot, with no clear benefit to traffic or safety.
Public comments on the environmental documents (available at http://www.caltrans.ca.gov/d12/DEA/133/0P94U/index.html) are due on July 10, 2018. In the interim, CalTrans will hold a public meeting here in Laguna Beach:
Laguna Beach High School Library
Please attend this public meeting and let CalTrans know that this project will have unacceptable impacts with no clear benefit to our community.
Questions? Please reach out to us on our blog or on Facebook – we’re happy to discuss our position on this project and what the proposed road changes would do to our open space!